By Kevin Meyer
One of my favorite blogs, Raptitude by David Cain, recently had a post on decisionmaking and minimalism. As an aspiring minimalist this appealed to me, but the commentary on choice and decisions was especially apropo.
I've been lucky in that I've always had an ability to make good decisions quickly, whether based on real analysis or winging it from the gut. It's been invaluable in my career and even personal life. But most people I know are less fortunate, and I've noticed how indecision impacts many aspects of their lives. The problem is compounded with age, and in her last years I watched my mother in-law become literally debilitated and frozen by even the most basic decisions. Because she couldn't make decisions, the number of undecided issues made her life appear to be unnecessarily - and impossibly - complex.
The impact of decisions begins with breakfast.
After years of being confronted with a decision shortly after waking, I decided to be done with deciding what was for breakfast. My usual is now the only thing on the menu, and since I stopped deciding what’s for breakfast, mornings have had a significantly different feel. They are clearer and more spacious.
I can relate - my breakfast is the same cup of greek yogurt and Grape Nuts each morning. I eat it while reading The Wall Street Journal on my iPad, just after my morning meditation and stretching, and just before reviewing my journal. Every day. Routine is satisfying, and calming.
An abundance of choices and the decisions that accompany are both a benefit and curse of the modern world.
As affluent Westerners we’re fortunate to have so many choices, but according to psychologist Barry Schwartz, having too many possibilities — which we do in almost every area: breakfast, clothing, careers, lifestyles and creative pursuits to name some major ones — makes it consistently harder to be happy with the options we choose. In his TED talk he identifies the ways too many choices erode personal welfare instead of serving it.
By focusing on reducing options - minimizing choices - life becomes simpler... and calmer.
Although I didn’t always know why, I know that the more I simplify my life, in terms of its moment-to-moment options, the happier I am. Owning fewer things made me immediately calmer and more grateful. Having an inflexible regular day for starting my weekly article drastically reduced my anxiety around writing. Cutting my monetary spending (almost) down to the essentials gave me an immediate sense of control and abundance I never had before. I also suddenly have more money than ever — the side-effects of voluntary simplification tend to be wonderful and freeing, at least when you’ve been living the Western consumer status quo your whole life.
The reason behind these breakthroughs, I see now, is the same. Each one reduced the number of decision points in my life. Every time I reduce the number of decisions I have to make just to move my life along, everything gets less difficult and I feel better about my direction. It becomes easier to be grateful and to get myself to do what is most important to me.
The implications go far beyond your daily meals. The best websites intuitively guide you among very few choices. Well-planned standard work reduces the variation of subjectivity while providing a foundation for kaizen.
Where can you reduce options in your life and in your organization, thereby reducing the waste and unnecessary complexity of indecision, and the variability of multiple decisions?