turns out, high functioning people don’t rely much on self-control

yet another interesting point in gretchen rubin’s interview on design matters was a surprising bit of research.

she mentioned a study that was aimed at finding out what made high-functioning people different from average people. the hypothesis: high functioning people exert more self-control daily than everyone else.

the findings, however, debunked that completely. turns out, high-functioning people actually exert less self-control daily than everyone else. the reason? habits!

gretchen went on to explain that the research showed people who were highly productive simply set their lives up to enable them to be productive. they removed as many decisions as possible from their day. this allowed them to do two things:

  1. keep doing things that are good for them, even if they didn’t actively want to do them at the moment (for example, exercise).
  2. save their decision-making energy for truly important things

in the research, the energy spent by the average person debating (i.e. what they’re going to eat, if they’re going to go to the gym, when they’re going to get a haircut, etc.) takes away energy from actually getting stuff done. of course, not to mention the fact that you may often decide to not do things that are good for you because you just aren’t feeling it that day. in the long-run, that adds up.

this all lines up really well with many different lines of thinking i’ve been having lately, but most directly it lines up with the cognitive budgets stuff. cool.