Why We Make Bad Decisions

We live in the free market. We have an abundance of choices.

No surprise we often make bad choices: ice cream over salad, another episode on Netflix over sleep, etc.

It’s obvious these are bad choices, but we make them anyway. Not because we’re self-sabotaging, but because we’re just tired of making decisions.

Growing up, this was called “willpower.” The ability to make the right choices and stick by them. But as Dan Ariely of Duke University writes in “Understanding Ego Depletion,“ we have limited reserves of willpower. And we use them up regularly. And hence why our choices at the start of the week tend to be better than the ones at the end.

Decision fatigue is a new idea, but it’s very real. We make more decisions than our ancestors ever did: They got up when the cows did. They ate what they found or hunted. Some think they may have been happier for this simplicity, but that’s a whole other topic.

People in the most high-pressure roles in business take steps to control the number of decisions they make on a per-day basis. We all know of Steve Jobs and his famous black turtleneck he wore every day. The less willpower he had to use in decisions like that the more he has in the tank for when critical decisions come up. 

So how do we avoid exhausting the decision fuel tanks? Habits.

Waking up at the same time every day, eating the same breakfast, going to the gym at the same time, letting someone else control our workouts, are examples of habits we can all easily build.

Making decisions is hard. Hence, many now opt for making fast ones and then adjusting on the fly as needed as it’s less consuming than pondering for hours or even days over them. Living with our decisions can be much easier than making them.

If you want to get healthier, use some of the simple steps discussed. Choose a gym that offers classes that are Coach-led. Prep all your meals for the week on Sunday. Save your willpower for dealing with your family or work.

Your training doesn’t have to be perfect every day. You don’t have to scour the internet for a groundbreaking diet. Avoid paralysis by analysis. I have a coach; she tells me what to do and how to do it, and then I go make better decisions with my family and business.

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Inspiration provided by Chris Cooper at


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