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How Being a Minimalist Can Help You Make Better Decisions in Life

How Being a Minimalist Can Help You Make Better Decisions in Life

Do you eat a healthy diet? Do you exercise? If you do, your purpose is probably to look and feel good.

But how about decision making? Have you considered its impact on your mental health?

You may be unaware of this, be we make an estimated 10,000 to 40,000 decisions every day.[1] It’s no wonder that something called ‘decision fatigue’ can rapidly set in!

Luckily, there are a number of rules that you can follow to streamline your decision making. These rules will help you reduce (or even eliminate) decision fatigue, and instead, free your mind to work on your personal goals and objectives.

Before I lift the lid on these rules, I want to first explain more about decision fatigue and its impact on your thought processes.

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When Your Brain Is Tired, You’re More Likely to Make Poor Decisions

Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, states that the brain calls upon “a common resource akin to energy or strength” when it’s required to make decisions.[2] According to Twenge’s research, besieging your brain with relentless decisions, leads to a rapid depletion of the brain’s energy. In turn, this leads to poor decision making.

Jean Twenge is not alone in this discovery. A 2010 study published in Psychological Science found a link between blood glucose levels (the body’s energy) and the ability to make shrewd decisions.[3] Higher blood glucose levels were found to be associated with superior decision making.

It’s clear from these studies, that decision fatigue negatively impacts your ability to make good choices.

Let’s turn now to what you can do to say goodbye to decision fatigue.

Steve Jobs Is a Solid Proof That Being a Minimalist Can Improve Your Decision Making

Conserving your mental energy is the secret key to regular, top-class decision making.

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What’s the best way to sustain your mental energy? To embrace minimalism.

Steve Jobs, Apple’s co-founder, was a devoted minimalist. His enthusiasm for this philosophy extended from his house (described as having virtually no furniture in it), to his simplistic product designs (such as the iPad and iPhone). He also practised Zen meditation, so fully understood the need for quietness, space and detachment. (Qualities that all help in developing mental clarity.)

John Sculley, former CEO of Apple, said: “What makes Steve’s methodology different from everyone else’s is that he always believed the most important decisions you make are not the things you do – but the things that you decide not to do. He’s a minimalist.”

And Steve Jobs is not the only great decision maker practicing minimalism. Other examples include: billionaire Michael Bloomberg, actor Robert Pattinson, and artist Agnes Martin.

How to Save Your Mental Energy for Being a Good Decision Maker

As you would expect, the rules for living a minimalist life are simple. Let’s check some of them out now.

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Discover the patterns behind how you do things

Most of us live our lives dictated by habits. We get up at the same time, eat the same breakfast, take the same journey to work, etc. While good habits can help simplify our lives, bad habits can cause us lost time, stress and unnecessary work. For instance, if you have a habit of checking your work emails first thing in a morning, you may lose your most productive time to simply reading through and deleting mostly useless information. Instead, make a habit to do your important work first, while your mind and energy are still fresh.

Observe what situations make you anxious (and learn how to handle them)

The road to a minimalist life involves some soul searching. This includes paying attention to situations that cause you stress or anxiety. Let’s say that you have a fear of public speaking. You’re asked to do a talk to the directors of your company. While you know your subject matter well, you allow yourself to become massively stressed out by just thinking about the presentation. You need to address these types of scenarios head on. Learn to minimize their impact on you by developing your ability to relax or detach from them. If you can’t do this, you may be best trying to avoid the situations completely (if this is possible). Stress and anxiety disrupt your thought processes – and your ability to make decisions.

Focus on tasks that help you finish things

Where are you putting most of your efforts? Is it on things that aren’t contributing to the attainment of your goals? Minimalists know that where they put their energy – is where they want to see results. You should do this too. For instance, if you want your garden to look tidy, watch fewer gardening programs – and instead, get outside and cut the grass and weed the soil. This applies to decisions too. Don’t spend days thinking of a decision that will have little impact on your life. Prioritize important, life-impacting decisions.

Declutter your desk, home and mind

Removing unnecessary things from your environment, or unneeded thoughts from your mind, is the first step in transitioning to a minimalist lifestyle. For example, if your office desk is full of scattered papers, get rid of them. This may mean tidying them away in a drawer, or recycling them if not needed. This one simple action will give you more physical space – and more mental space too. The benefits? You’ll be able to make clearer decisions and choices.

Reduce the amount of electronic notifications you receive

If you’re like most people (especially those from the younger generations), you’re likely to be receiving relentless notifications via social media, email and SMS. These non-stop notifications are rarely of value. Instead, they act as a giant distraction iceberg. Be ruthless, and switch off as many of these notifications as possible. By doing this, you’ll keep your mind free from distractions, and primed to make great decisions.

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Choose items that are versatile

Have you noticed how some people need a different item for every task? At work, they have a personal cellphone for personal calls, a work cellphone for work calls, a personal laptop for personal use, and a work laptop for work use! They are charging, carrying and operating four devices, when they could probably reduce this down to just two. For example, many companies now operate a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy. This enables you to do all your work (personal and business) on your own laptop. By having items that are versatile, you’ll spend less money – and less time choosing which items to use.

Break free from toxic relationships

There’s no greater energy thief than toxic relationships. They can leave you feeling drained and depressed. If you have a way to step aside from these relationships, then do it. You’ll get back your energy and positivity. Both things that are crucial for making first-rate decisions.

By adopting a minimalist approach to life, you’ll conserve your physical and mental energy. This will allow you to defeat mental fatigue, and help your decision making become the best it can be.

Be productive. Be progressive. Be minimalist.

Reference

More by this author

Craig J Todd

UK Writer who loves to use the power of words to inspire and motivate.

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Last Updated on October 16, 2019

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Do you like making mistakes?

I certainly don’t.

Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

  • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
  • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
  • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
  • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

  1. Point us to something we did not know.
  2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
  3. Deepen our knowledge.
  4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
  5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
  6. Inform us more about our values.
  7. Teach us more about others.
  8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
  9. Show us when someone else has changed.
  10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
  11. Remind us of our humanity.
  12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
  13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
  14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
  15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
  16. Invite us to better choices.
  17. Can teach us how to experiment.
  18. Can reveal a new insight.
  19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
  20. Can serve as a warning.
  21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
  22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
  23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
  24. Remind us how we are like others.
  25. Make us more humble.
  26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
  27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
  28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
  29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
  30. Expose our true feelings.
  31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
  32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
  33. Point us in a more creative direction.
  34. Show us when we are not listening.
  35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
  36. Can create distance with someone else.
  37. Slow us down when we need to.
  38. Can hasten change.
  39. Reveal our blind spots.
  40. Are the invisible made visible.

Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

The secret to handling mistakes is to:

  • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
  • Have an experimental mindset.
  • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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