Why is it that candy is always at the end of the supermarket “snake”? Is it just the natural state of affairs for how our brain sorts food categories? Are they trying to make sure that we have bought all the important stuff first? Or are they well aware, that by the time we get to that aisle we have spent all our willpower on small decisions like which bread type to chose, whether we need meat this week and what our Saturday dinner guests might enjoy, so we are easy targets for anything our 35,000 year old brain might enjoy RIGHT now?
Our willpower can quickly go from full to empty, as we go through decisions after decisions, minute by minute, hour by hour. How important is this? Take a look at this graph depicting the likelihood of parole on the y-axis and the time of day for the parole hearing on the x-axis:
Yes, you guessed it – right before lunch and the afternoon sandwich your chances fall to almost zero, because when you are in doubt on big decisions you default to the safe option!
So for critical decisions this is pretty important. But maybe just as interesting our ability to manage our willpower may be THE most important predictor of success in terms of our ability to plan and stick to it, concentration for long periods of time, GPA score, BMI etc:
So some kids are born lucky (ok we actually do not know, how much is from birth and how much from upbringing, but you get the picture) – what can I do? Well besides making sure to get your regular sleep, healthy food and exercise, think about what former US president Barack Obama and rock star scientist Albert Einstein have in common:
Make sure to have as few simple decisions to make in a day – have just ONE suit types, ONE shirt color, ONE shoe style, ONE… well you get it. Eat the same breakfast, ask the waiter to pick your lunch, run a dinner program without questioning it. Do NOT use unnecessary willpower, when you need it to decide more important things later in the day…
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