Deciding Ourselves to Death

Why is it that “all or nothing” approaches sometimes feel so much easier than moderation-based approaches?

One theory, is that it leaves little room for decision making, which is what scientists believe to be one of the main culprits of psychological stress and mental fatigue. Additionally, an all-or-nothing approach is usually used in the beginning when trying to form a new habit. 

Have you ever attempted to diet? Cue the insistent inner dialogue of “should I have this? Should I not have this?” which usually ends up—after a bit of rationalization—in eating whatever it was you were trying to decide on. I italicize “decide” because essentially what is happening in that situation is “decision making”.

Every time we struggle to make a decision our mental energy takes a hit, and, over the course of the day—deciding on what to wear, what to get for lunch, or whether to donate to this charity or this one—can leave us feeling unmotivated and more prone to compulsive behavior. (The cookie jar was already empty—I swear.)

empty cookie jar

Hypothetically, you could easily fit a cookie or two into your days worth of calories but alas, us highly-advanced intellectual beings aren’t very good at acts of moderation.

As someone with a profound interest in nutrition, fitness and general wellness, I believe that a balanced approach to food, exercise and—well, pretty much everything else in life—should be taken.

(If you agree with this philosophy you may be interested in holistic health and I encourage you to check out what that is in the link provided if you’re unfamiliar).

With that being said, I also believe that each individual is extraordinarily unique and an approach that works for one person, may not for another. One should take into account their individual personality type when deciding on an exercise and/or nutrition plan.

What do I mean by this?

If you’re a “novelty seeker” like I am, you tend to be more attracted to high-intensity, progressive workouts. (I prefer short and effective, low-volume workouts based on relevant compound lifts done in a reverse pyramid scheme–for more on fitness made simple contact meor checkout Martin Berkhan of LeanGains.com’s work. Also, Christian Thibaudeau has an interesting perspective and system based on “neurological type” as it relates to fitness and programming. Read more about that here.)

Conversely when it comes to nutrition, we also like new and stimulating foods… and I mean really like. For this reason I choose to follow dietary protocols which set boundaries not to restrict myself, but to be able to follow guidelines without much thought instead of have a more moderate, “oh, I’ll just have one scoop of ice-cream” approach.

Below is a quote I find relevant in this context, but which also applies to creativity in general.

“Creativity thrives under intelligent constraints”

– Matthew May

This segues (no, not the dumb, futuristic tourist mobile “segway”) back to decision making.

In some cases, binary-thinking (0s & 1s, yes/no, smash/pass) can be extremely useful when faced with situations that could potentially lead to unnecessary over-thinking. What is truly key however, is to gain the skill of awareness.

Awareness in certain circumstances will make the difference between compulsively acting on habit or emotion, versus being able to rationally figure out which approach is appropriate for the situation.

Stay rational, my friends.


Please checkout the two extremely important charities which I’ve linked to in this post. I’ll make this decision easy for you—donate to both!

The Natural Resources Defense Fund

National Immigration Law Center

One of the greatest issues our generation faces is not taking action because we believe that we cannot make a difference…

We. Totally. Can. 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s