Ever wondered why you’re so tired after shopping? Compared to other tasks, like doing the laundry or tidying up a room, shopping requires a lot of decision-making. Decision paralysis is real, and it is exhausting – unless you are conscious of it!

Often, folks are quick to blame laziness as the barrier to change. I can’t even count the number of times that a client has told me that their number one struggle is themselves! “I’m just too lazy”. As much as I love and appreciate the radical ownership of these beautiful humans, I typically tend to push back a little. Why? Because sometimes laziness is not laziness at all. Sometimes, it’s the by-product of something else. Decision fatigue.

Change brings new choices, and unless you have clarity about what you’re doing, these new choices lead to confusion… then fatigue. How many times have you stood in a grocery store aisle analyzing the myriad of options for one single product? Maybe it’s something you’ve never tried before or an ingredient for a new recipe that you don’t purchase frequently. Now imagine that you’ve decided to eat healthier. Likely, your nutrition and eating habits will require some significant changes. Multiply that one experience by the number of items on your grocery list, and you can begin to appreciate the effect of decision fatigue.

So what can we do about that?

Know where you’re headed. Plan a path to get there. Stay flexible along the way.

There is a tendency for all of us to become misdirected in the analysis of situations. This is especially true in the beginning stages of change. To avoid this common pitfall, consider three critical pieces.

Your Goals. Know where you are headed.

Knowing where you are going allows you to align your goals and essential actions. Your behaviours and habits should keep you on course. In other words, heading in the direction of your goals. If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s easy to get lost.

Plan a path toward your goals.

To do this, work backwards from your desired change (ie. to lose fat and get healthier) to a specific behaviour or specific action (eat higher quality foods). From that place, get crystal clear on what that specific action entails. Creating a clear path toward the direction of your goals helps to reduce ambiguity, confusion and fatigue.

If you endeavour to food shop with the intention to “eat higher quality foods”, then you’ve left a lot of opportunity for decision fatigue. What are your criteria for “higher quality”? Do you avoid processed food or eat less of them? Instead of removing food, do you focus on adding more whole and minimally processed foods? Define your path so clearly that there are fewer opportunities for decision fatigue.

This may require a bit of exploration on your part. It will depend on your specific goals and personal preferences. Most folks tend to focus their actions on one or more of the following 4Ms of Metabolism: Mindfulness/Mindset, Movement, Meals, or Metabolics (exercise and supplements).

Stay flexible and you can adapt to anything.

There will be bumps along the way. Challenges like a job loss, setbacks like illness, and unexpected situations like a loved one passing. Adversity can be a stepping stone to resilience if we’re flexible and adaptable when these situations arise.

We can’t plan for the unforeseen and unknown, but we can cultivate practices that will help us bounce back and grow despite difficult times – and often stronger. This is how we become resilient! Being resilient does not mean that our emotions are ignored or shoved under the rug. It’s about working through our pain and suffering and growing from it.

How to be flexible. Consider small actions that can easily be repeated daily or on a regular basis. What scaled-down version of your essential action could enhance your life when you’re feeling down, stressed, tired or demotivated? A 10-minute workout vs a 30 minute workout, or going to bed 30 minutes earlier are important acts of self-kindness that when prioritized, strengthen the mind & body for continued growth and change.

The specific action that you’ve landed on should help you move in the direction of your goals. Take that action and brainstorm with vivid detail what it looks like to do that thing, how it helps you move in the direction of your goals, and how you might tweak things if/when life throws a curve ball your way.

When this level of analysis occurs below our conscious awareness, as it often does, we are left feeling confused, exhausted and overwhelmed. Decision fatigue leads to decision analysis, and then inaction. Since we don’t know where this is coming from, we tend to associate our inaction with laziness. Hopefully, you can now recognize if laziness is merely the by-product of decision fatigue.

Photo by Stephen Leonardi on Unsplash