3 Reasons You Shouldn't Make Your Own Decisions

decisions experts fitness

Mental laziness

Despite the fact that it doesn't involve much visible effort, thinking is hard work. Many of us tend towards mental laziness simply because thinking through all the possibilities and alternatives to a decision requires a lot of time, and doing it well requires us to actually insist on a high quality, valid answer, rather than simply a convenient one.

I didn't want to go through the full process of researching the protein shakes on the market, assessing which one met my needs (which would first require that I specifically define my needs), do a cost comparison, figure out which was the least processed, weighting whether I should go with a plant source or an animal source, consider alternatives, etc. So I thought, maybe some source I trust has already done all the legwork for me.

Of course, I realized that there are several sources I trust that would have done all that, but not all of them would agree with each other. Some might even say that protein shakes were a bad option no matter what. Which brings me to my second reason:


Sometimes, we've already settled on what we want the answer to be. If you hate weights, you could easily validate a decision to do nothing but cardio. All it would take is hanging around the right kinds of blogs. In fact, you'd even pick up a number of great counterarguments to anyone who might suggest your aching back could benefit from some deadlifts instead of added miles and more stretching. Online especially, we tend to stick to our communities and viewpoints: you follow people you like on social media, and so most of the articles you read agree with your viewpoints. For a lot of people, social media becomes a sort of echo chamber. We get to feel right about everything, but we're missing half the picture.

I wanted a protein shake because it seemed like the easiest solution to busy days. That was clear, and I didn't need someone to explain that. However, I wanted someone else to tell me it was okay. I had already made the decision to get one, and any research I did would be to simply validate my decision, assure me that someone else also thought it was a good idea. So if it turned out to not be, I could just shrug and blame them.

Avoidance of Responsibility

It's weird, but most of us try to avoid responsibility for things, even our own health and fitness. We want someone else to tell us what to do. Often, this is because we don't want to be blamed if things don't work out. If your trainer prescribes a particular workout and it doesn't get you the right results, you can just switch trainers without having to admit that you didn't even put in the effort (or you could simply say that your ex-trainer couldn't motivate you/gave you a workout that was too difficult, etc). Even if you're training yourself, you can always blame whatever program you're following, or life circumstances, or your genetics, or whatever. As long as it isn't your fault.

Haven't We Been This Way?

I wanted someone else to make the decision for me because, well, I've said before that I don't really like processed foods, even those that are "Beyond Organic." If I could just find some respected Paleo/Primal-friendly trainer out there saying, "Hey, if you don't have enough time to eat, just have a protein shake. It's better than starving," I could let them make the call on whether or not I should break my whole-foods-only diet.

I am familiar enough with the various trends within the fitness and nutrition community to imagine all the answers I'd get. I knew I was just trying to get out of making a decision myself.

So I went to the store, looked at the various brands, compared their ingredients and their prices and bought...8 cans of sardines. 30 grams of protein, easy to carry and zero prep (just eat out of the can), loads of Omega-3s, calcium, and phosphorus, sustainably fished, and cheaper per gram of protein than the shakes. Plus, it's a whole food.

Ironically, that's what I'd been doing before I moved to Boulder, because, as I said, I've encountered this dilemma before.

The Lesson

When it comes to health and fitness, there's very little new under the sun. Learn the principles, see how respected trainers and athletes apply them, and make your own decisions, based on your own needs in the particular circumstances of your own health and fitness goals.

And if you don't feel that you're experienced enough to do that, understand that experience comes from putting in the mental effort to test your ideas, taking on responsibility so you actually get the chance to try things, and validating your trials against the real world, not other peoples' opinions.

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Photo credit: InaFrenzy on Flickr