I recently heard two different people talking about “pre-deciding.” I’m hearing sermons, reading research, and listening to general conversation about the power of pre-decision on self-regulation and achieving goals.
I love learning about things like this, so of course, I start reading the social science published on pre-deciding. I learn today about how pre-decisions (simply deciding in advance what you will do in a certain situation) reduces the need to rely on willpower when achieving goals. For example, if someone wants to overcome procrastination or overeating, the research shows that pre-deciding the time you will work or what you will eat before temptation hits will help you self-regulate.
One research article I read says it like this: “[People] can reduce willpower by spreading out the decision making. Implementation intentions is a psychological strategy employing pre-decisions to reduce spikes in cognitive load. In the case of procrastination, the procrastinator would make the decision of when and what work to do beforehand. When the time comes to act, the pre-made decision requires less cognition.”
You might have heard the term decision fatigue instead of “cognitive load.” In each case, it’s too hard for the brain to keep weighing options of what to do, especially if your emotions work against you. So if you pre-decide things, you help yourself achieve your goals and “self-regulate.”
I love it. Highly self-regulated people, like elite athletes, do this well. They work out even if they don’t want to because it’s pre-decided. People who achieve their weight-loss goals often do so because of a series of pre-decisions. They meal-plan, pack a lunch for work, and stock their fridge with pre-decided healthy snacks.
I love the idea of running most of the day in a pre-decided way when it comes to behaviors you want to improve. Pre-decide when to write your novel, when to exercise, when to tidy the kitchen. Pre-decide what you’ll eat, what you’ll buy, or whatever it is that relates to some kind of goal. Apparently, pre-decision works.
I tried this last night when out with friends at a dinner spot with loads of options. I decided beforehand on the perfect salad that would help me feel good and get my veggies in, but when I arrived, others were debating about pizza or sub sandwiches. I called out and laughed, “I pre-decided! There’s no going back! The decision has been made!” We all laughed about my current obsession with pre-deciding, but in that moment, it worked.
It was a great salad!