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Selective decision making

Consistency is what builds brands.

Whether you’re a city, company, or a person, doing the same thing over and over again is what reinforces your identity. That’s why Steve Jobs always wore a black mock turtleneck, why Mark Zuckerberg always wears a gray t-shirt and hoodie, and why Tom Ford always wears a white shirt and a black jacket. They are continually building their own distinctive brand.

I’ve always found this concept really appealing.

Maybe it’s because I had to wear a uniform every day of my life until I went to University, or maybe I just like the concept of personal branding. Either way, there are a bunch of things that I have stuck with for a long time. For example, I’ve worn the same cologne since I was 19. I bought it in Italy one summer and I really liked it. And it now always reminds me of Europe. So I keep wearing it.

But the other reason why consistency can be good for you is that it reduces the number of decisions that you need to make on a regular basis. That’s why President Obama also wears more or less the same thing every day:

You also need to remove from your life the day-to-day problems that absorb most people for meaningful parts of their day. “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” [Obama] said. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” He mentioned research that shows the simple act of making decisions degrades one’s ability to make further decisions.

The research he’s talking about comes from people like Kathleen Vohs, professor at the University of Minnesota, and Barry Schwartz, professor at Swarthmore College, who concluded that the more decisions we make – even pleasant and enjoyable ones – the quicker we get to what’s called “decision fatigue." We simply exhaust our ability to make effective decisions.

This, to me, is a really important lesson. Because the way I look at it, we live in a world of constant noise. Our phones are always chirping. There are 132 different types of toothpaste at the store. And everywhere we turn, somebody is trying to sell us something. So maintaining a certain level of simplicity and minimalism in your life can actually be an incredibly difficult task.

More and more I’m finding this to be the case. So maybe it’s time I start wearing the same thing every day. Do you have any tips for living life, simply?

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