Optimal behaviour before big decisions

If you ever held a job that requires you to drive long distances or hop into trains switch to a cab etc etc, you surely have noticed that you arrive tired at work. But that’s not all, there is something more insidious that is going below the surface – you maybe making bad decisions that grow progressively worse before the day ends.

The reason for bad decisions is decision fatigue . Decision fatigue states that there is a finite amount of decisions that humans have a capacity to make in a day. It’s like going to the refrigerator to pour a glass of water without replenishing the container and doing that over and over again. A long commute is a sum total of minor decisions taken repeatedly – get in the car, find the optimal route to the train station, be constantly mindful that you don’t bump into the neighbouring traffic and so on. Thus, it makes sense that a long commute would eat into your capacity to make good decisions.

How do we counteract decision fatigue? What’s the antidote?

Decision fatigue was popularised in the last couple of years and I find that most people are aware of it but they aren’t aware of the antidote. In the last 30 years, new research called Attention Restorative Theory (ART) has indicated that spending time in nature has a restorative effect on humans (surprise!).

The nub is that human attention is classified into two components – involuntary and voluntary attention. Voluntary attention is used in making decisions. When you are in nature, walking through the woods there is an aspect of the environment called fascination which generates awe in people which gives the voluntary attention a rest. Spend enough time in nature and the lesser your voluntary attention is used and the better you will get making decisions that require this voluntary attention.

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Thus, the optimal behaviour before you need to make big decisions is to go out and take a walk in the nature, look at something that generates fascination in you and give your voluntary attention a break!

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