Decision-making fatigue, volleyball tournaments, and 5 ways to save mental energy.
From the second your feet hit the ground in the morning, to the moment your head hits the pillow at night, you face thousands of choices. A collection of circumstances and decisions over time—both big and small—mold the course of your life. The ability to make conscious choices presents both a tremendous responsibility and a wonderful blessing. In the words of Albus Dumbledore, “It is our choices, that make us who we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
Imagine every decision that crosses your mind as a volleyball game. The subconscious serves an idea to the frontal lobe who bumps up a proposal to Emotion who sets the ball for Truth to wind up and spike it over the net. If the decision ball makes it past the block of Caution, the libero of Logic dives for the dig, Past experience sets it backward, and intuition hits the ball back over again. Each team rallies for points until the winner scores a final decision at the end of the match.
At the beginning of each day, hundreds of energetic volleyball players sit on your brain-bench, eager to step onto the courts of choice and play. It might sound like it’s all fun and games, but the players have a finite amount of daily decision energy before the quality starts to deteriorate. This is part of the reason why we tell people to “sleep on it” before making a big decision.
When overloaded, your mind becomes a convention center sized volleyball tournament of suspenseful debate rallies and the dreaded decision fatigue kicks in, affecting every aspect of life. The constant noise drowns out your ability to hear the coaches; you begin reaching for gu packets of sugar under stress, and predictably you fade out from exhaustion by the day’s end. Chronic decision fatigue leaves nothing left over in the tank for things like problem solving, creative projects, or smart choices at life crossroads. Thus, to become good stewards of our minds, we must become excellent volleyball referees and tournament managers.
# 1 Separate the A-League from the B League
The star of the varsity volleyball team would never think about tiring out her shoulders while playing in a junior varsity game right before a big playoff match. Likewise, the ability to distinguish between A league decisions (where will I go to college?) and B league decisions, (do I order salmon or chicken?) is an important skill. If I dine at a restaurant alone, I might consider half a dozen factors when making the B league choice of what to order. For example, the level of culinary skill required to make the dish, the seasonality of the side vegetables, the geographical distance to the ocean, and a rough estimate of the price per calorie. But if I am on a very important date, I would hate to wear out my starting lineup of decision makers on a menu and then fall into the conversational B league of small talk for the rest of the evening. For best results, arrive at the A league decision games fully present, well rested and well fed, and deal with the B league decisions with any leftover brian-width.
# 2 Due Diligence on Disqualifications
Many of us waste key utility players with choice anxiety over toxic battles in the back of the mind. Courts rallying over questions such as, “Am I smart enough for my job? Is my ex’s new GF prettier than me? Or is that just a cool new insta filter I should download? Is everyone hanging out without me?” Actually, these decisions don’t deserve any energy at all. Your job as the tournament referee is to strut about the facility with a red flag in hand and shut these courts down. Relocate the players to a detoxifying resting station and disperse them to more important courts after the recovery period.
#3 Recruit from the Outside
A coach builds a thriving volleyball program by taking a core group of veterans and recruiting a few new players with fresh talent. In the realm of decision making, copy the coaches by pinpointing your struggle area and recruiting an outside expert for assistance. For me, that struggle is clothes shopping. While I do appreciate the end result of a cute outfit, shopping alone inevitably turns into a complex and overwhelming process. I start thinking of a pair of jeans in terms of it’s financial equivalent to audio books, burritos bowls, or plane tickets and then ponder whether I would rather be a disheveled nomad traveler or a fashionable and well read local. I most likely end up either buying yet another blue sundress on sale or leaving empty handed and wishing I could just wear a robe all the time. And so, I bring a fashionista friend who enjoys shopping and actually knows what she’s doing. It’s a win-win situation, and far more fun together.
# 4 Run the Play
Few, if any, of the greatest sports team’s earned championship status because they had a strategy to “just see what happens.” The best teams have systems practiced the point the players could execute flawlessly in their sleep. As an example, take a look at these two different morning routines.
Jill wakes up battling inside about whether to hit the snooze or not, whether to go to the gym before work or after work, and whether to elliptical or CrossFit her way to fitness. Jack, on the other hand, leaps out of bed on instinct to the alarm sound, promptly reads a list of morning affirmations, drops down for 20 push-ups, and takes a chilly mood boosting shower all before his brain even has a chance to protest. By 8 am, Jill needs a strong venti-sized cup of Starbucks coffee to account for the decision damage control. But the well-rested players inside Jack’s brain sit on the edge of their seats begging, “put me in coach! Let’s go to work making choices and solving world problems!” This being said, save yourself some energy by automating a couple key decisions.
# 5 Listen to the Coach
Good decision making—similar to athletics—requires hard work and good coaching. The team you hang out with, and the information you take in will greatly influence your style of play. Make yourself teachable, seek wisdom, and surround yourself with positive people, mentors, and coaches. A good mentor does not have to be the person who throws a clipboard or tells you exactly what to do in a micromanaging way. In the decision world, a great coach is someone who gives genuine encouragement, offers correction when needed, helps you realize your true potential, and always has your best interest in mind.
Alas, I think that’s enough from the tournament manager. I hear the whistle. It’s GAME TIME for good choices! Serve’s up!