“ A wise man makes his own decisions, an ignorant man follows public opinion.” – Chinese Proverb
Have you ever noticed that you feel worn-out after contemplating a big decision? Do you feel scattered when there are several seemingly minor things on your plate? I recently had a couple of large decisions to make and felt completely scattered, overwhelmed and tired. I found a very interesting article in Scientific American that suggests that using executive function, even for less important decisions (say, whether you should eat a cookie) can tire your brain enough to affect your ability to make clear decisions. This makes perfect sense to me, and it got my wheels turning.
As a fitness professional, I immediately started to connect the dots in terms of muscular function and mental fatigue. When we complete a killer workout and our muscles are sore, we are encouraged to rest, but to keep moving so that we don’t freeze up. When my clients tell me how sore they are after one of my workouts, I tell them they need to move their bodies again, just differently, so they keep their range of motion and flexibility, yet still allow recovery time for the muscles just worked. I am not by any means an expert (or even somewhat versed) on brain function, but it just seems practical and logical that the brain needs rest in a manner similar to our muscles.
So, how do we go about resting our brains properly after making all of these decisions in life? How do we make the big decisions without falling apart at the seams because the brain is already over-taxed and barely functioning? And more importantly, how can we ensure we are making the best possible decisions at all times?
I have created a very simple method for clearing-out brain clutter, checking to see that your thought processes are balanced and giving yourself permission to move forward after you have made your decision.
Step 1. Write it Down Jot down all of the decisions you make in one day. Be thorough, but if you miss or forget something, don’t worry about it. This is to give you an idea of the myriad simple, complex, large and small decisions you make throughout the course of one day. This is an exercise in shining a light, and nothing more. Write it down, take a look at it, and marvel at the incredible capacity of your brain.
Step 2. Devise a Plan After seeing this immense list of decisions you have made, surely you thought something like this: “Oh my word, holy smokes, that’s a lot of responsibility, my head hurts, I need a vacation.”
Routinize your routines. The plan you make depends totally on your needs. Simplify as many processes as you can so that you don’t need to make as many decisions. If you have your routines in place and you follow them most of the time, you don’t have to figure out as many things. For example, if you always go to the gym on the same mornings, pack your clothes, toiletries and lunch the night before. In the morning, all you need to do is get yourself out the door, preferably after you’ve eaten something to give you the energy you need to work out.
If you cook, plan your meals before you hit the grocery store and stick more or less to your plan so you not only use all that you purchase, but you already know what’s for dinner. Better yet, make a double batch of something very basic at the beginning of the week so you can reinvent or repurpose it for another meal.
Step 3. Prioritize Recovery Time Give yourself time to recover and decompress every day, even if it’s only for two minutes before bed. In this age of constant connection and attachment to all forms of distraction, we end up over-stimulated and wired at the end of the day. Take a few minutes every evening before you go to bed to unwind. Give yourself time to let the day go, release it and rest your body and mind. Take a bath, stretch, take several deep breaths focused on a longer exhale, journal, sit quietly and visualize putting your worries to bed… Something to help you relax and unwind. The idea is to give yourself time to release the day, let the worries wash away, set the stage for quality sleep and allowing yourself time to recover and re-set.
Consider this quote as you let your day go:
“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Step 4. Forgive and Honor Yourself If you take nothing else away from this entry, please pay special attention to this paragraph. Forgive yourself any mistakes you perceive to have made today and every day. Read, absorb and live the Emerson quote above. “You shall begin (each new day) serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” Wow. That is incredibly powerful in it’s simplicity.
Find the power of the positive in every accomplishment you achieve each day, even if “just” making simple decisions. If you make the best decision possible under your circumstances every time, then you have made progress toward your highest self.
Every day we are faced with basic decisions, and how we handle these can dictate how the rest of our life will look. Every decision directs the next step, so if you want to move ahead in life and still feel grounded, then consider making a basic plan, simplifying and giving yourself time to recover as you need it. Treat yourself with love and respect, as you would a child or family member, and give yourself permission to enjoy your life.
I wish you the best as you continue your transformation to your highest and best self.
Blessings. Gratitude. Love.