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Decision Fatigue

Okay, okay… so how does this apply to removing alcohol from our lives? Why do we care what Mark Zuckerberg wears every day, and why do court decisions matter to us?

Because when we’re trying to abstain from alcohol use and our battery gets too low, our ability to say no to a craving becomes incredibly compromised.

Think of it this way: if you get a good night’s sleep (something that alcohol will wreck, by the way) and you wake up with a battery charged to 100%, you immediately begin draining that battery when you open your eyes. Check your phone before you get out of bed and catch a work email? -5%. Grit your teeth through your hour-long commute? -15%. Decide between tacos or burgers for lunch? -5%. And so on, and so on, all day long.

You can charge this battery with rest and rejuvenation, like taking a nap, dropping into a meditation, or going for a walk on your lunch break, but there’s only so much juice you can add throughout a normal day.

And then 5 p.m. hits, and you’re white-knuckling through another hour-long commute with a battery at 15% power. You had planned to skip the grocery store on your way home because you know it will result in you picking up a bottle of wine, but suddenly, you find yourself pulling into the parking lot and putting the car in park.

So what do we do about this? We do whatever it takes to reduce the number of decisions and stressful factors throughout our day, so that we have a decent charge on our internal battery when an evening craving hits. We eat the same (nutritious) thing for lunch every day, we put as much on auto-pilot as we can, and we maybe even wear the same black turtleneck every day. We put measures in place to battle decision fatigue, and we set ourselves up for success the next time we feel a craving to drink.

Danziger, S., Levav, J., & Avnaim-Pesso, L. Extraneous factors in judicial decisions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 108(17), 6889-6892.
Kaplan, L. (2016, March.) How to Make Better Decisions: Why Zuckerberg and Obama wear the same outfit daily. Medium.
Tierney, J. (2011, August.) Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue? The New York Times Magazine.

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