I was listening to a podcast episode on “constraint” the other day.
They talked about how life is easier for us when we have constraint in our lives, in other words restricting the number of decisions we need to make.
When you have constraint, it stops the “mind chatter”, or the little arguments that go on inside your brain.
For example, if you have no constraint when it comes to choosing what to eat, your mind goes on overdrive:
What should I order? The chicken sandwich? Hmm, I probably shouldn’t be eating bread. I guess I could have the salad. But the sandwich looks so good! Maybe just this one time? And then I’ll have the salad tomorrow?
All of this “mind chatter” takes up energy, and leaves us drained for when we have to use our brains for the really important stuff.
But if you set yourself constraints and decide to “not eat bread” or “not eat sugar” as a blanket rule – it limits your choices, and therefore makes the decision making process easier.
I experienced the full force of this “mind chatter” when I first started my business.
I didn’t have a set place to work, and I was house sitting in various location, so I was moving around a lot.
Every day I’d wake up and think: ‘Where should I work today? Should I stay at home? I guess I could go to a cafe. Which cafe should I go to? And should I eat first, or eat there? Do they have wifi? Maybe I could go to a library. Is there a library nearby…?’ and so on.
I realised I was spending more time figuring out the logistics of how and where I would work than actually doing the work!
So I reduced my options and joined the Hub Melbourne co-work space, which meant that every day, I would go to ONE place, and it didn’t matter where I was living, I’d work out of the same place every day.
Other areas of my life in which I place constraint:
Food: I eat the same thing every day for breakfast. For me, mornings are when my creativity is at its peak. I don’t want to waste my energy on creating a different mind blowing breakfast every day.
I also go through periods of being completely off eating sugar. And I notice that as soon as I remove constraint, the mind chatter comes back. I find myself thinking: Oh maybe just this once. You didn’t have any yesterday! This is a special occasion. Look, you haven’t had cheesecake in forever, just have one bit. But I know I’ll feel gross afterwards…but it tastes to good…
Clothes: I have a minimalist approach to my wardrobe. Again, I don’t want to spend too much morning brain energy deciding on what to wear. I mean, I’ve gotta write an awesome blog post today!
Working out: Doing Crossfit is a great way to limit your decision making. My membership gives me 3 classes per week, I only go at 7am, 4.30pm or 5.30pm, and the workouts are already pre-planned for me.
I don’t have to fret about things like: Do I do legs or shoulders today? I’m tired, maybe I should just do 20 minutes…or should I do some stretching? Dammit, someone’s on the rowing machine. Hmm, are the dumbbells free…? and so on.
Have you ever experienced this mind chatter?
Maybe you have, but you’re not aware of the energy it’s consuming. If that’s the case, I challenge you to be aware of how much time you spend arguing with yourself about what to wear, what to eat, where to go for lunch etc.
And if you can pinpoint what your mind chatter is about, I challenge you to place some form of constraint on that thing, and see if it reduces your mind chatter.
And when your mind is clear, you’ll be in a much better place (and have more mental energy) to focus on the things that count :)