When Standards Are Set, Decisions Are Simple

When the standards are set, the decisions are simple.

This is one of the core tenets of my life. I’ve relied on this principle ever since I’ve been able to make grownup decisions, but I only put these words to it 2 or 3 years ago.

(Side Note: It’s very cool how much more I apply and rely on the principle now that I have a memorable sentence that I can recall anytime.)

Here’s the deal. We humans have brains that are evolutionarily motivated to be efficient…as in “literally expend the minimal amount of energy possible at any given time.” That means we’re prone to over-simplification when making decisions. We take mental shortcuts all the time; think of things like the rule of thumb, an educated guess, trial and error. We seek to minimize our cognitive load by making decisions without full assessment that are close enough to be sufficient. This is why we often order the same thing at the restaurant we go to all the time. It’s also akin to more serious things like biases in which we make blanket judgements about situations or people based on hearsay or singular experiences. It’s more efficient to go with what we think we know.

Psychologists Fiske and Taylor coined the term “cognitive miser” to convey the miserly ways of our mental computations. Our brains are just trying to keep things simple to conserve energy.

I contend we should work this to our advantage and become “COGNITIVE WISER”!

We can simplify decision-making and problem-solving by setting standards and deciding in advance. So—in the heat of life’s potentially challenging moments, we activate our Cognitive Wiser to call upon the set standards that come packaged with decisions already made.

It’s impossible to predict all the specific situations (and in this instance, ‘situations’ includes ‘people’) we’ll come across in our lives, but it’s totally possible and really-really helpful to set fundamental, immovable standards.

Start with the big bucket stuff to help simplify decision-making along the way. The foundational standards on broad issues will guide day-to-day choices.

Next, apply this principle to what might seem like ‘the little things’ in life. An example: I have a standard that there will be no more than 10 emails sitting in my inbox by the close of any given day. With that as a nonnegotiable standard, I do what it takes to get that inbox down to 10 or less before I log off.

I’m all about simplifying whatever we can in order to make room for the things that that are worthy of more time and mental energy. As I’ve set standards that allow me to simplify decisions, I have freed up precious hours to pursue new ventures, care more about people, and…heck…just relax and take naps if I so choose!

One of the new ventures I have had time for because I’ve simplified my life and decluttered it of time-consuming redundant tasks and decisions is represented by the content of this very post, as well as all that I share with you over on irenewilliams.com.

I have a blueprint that you can follow to set standards, make decisions more quickly, and get to the good stuff in life.

Keep following, and I’ll keep sharing!

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