I am a pretty bad rock climber, and I really love doing it. It’s an unfortunate combination. As a result I have spent more time than most hanging from my fingers and thinking about a really big fall at the same time that I am looking hard for a way to climb through. On multiple occasions when my forearms were burning and my foot shaking, I have thought about just getting it over with and letting go.
I have also felt that way a lot this week while sitting at my desk, and maybe some of you have too.
It’s typical to have lots of variables in our decisions, but these (insert preferred expletive) Covid-19 variables keep changing, so we keep having to make new decisions. We have to envision whole new ways of operating camp two or three times a day, and at some point we start to think the best way to stop making decisions is to just let go.
Roy F. Baumeister studies Mental Discipline at Florida State and calls this Decision Fatigue.
He describes willpower like a muscle, giving us a limited amount of mental energy for exercising self-control, and when we get tired three things happen.
First, we get bad at balancing trade offs. You might start shopping for a new car by balancing reliability, style and price. But after a few failed efforts you get tired and start to focus on just one of the three. That’s how you end up driving a yellow Pontiac Aztec. It is also how we get bad at balancing things like program safety and program quality, or parent communication and camper growth.
Second, Decision Fatigue can cause us to make impulse decisions, like a sweeping decision to cancel camp for the rest of our lives and sell it as a sod farm, or really anything that comes to mind. Finally, Decision Fatigue can cause us to avoid making decisions altogether.
It’s a great reason to go climbing.
Good leaders know when they are ready to make great decisions, and until then they are patient.
Great leaders do the same thing while keeping their eye on their mission.
This sometimes allows them to make decisions a little faster, because they keep their focus on where they really want to go, on what they really want to accomplish. They see the way to climb through.
If I could give an assignment it would be to set aside thirty minutes to chew on your camp’s mission statement.
Is that really where you want to go? If so then be patient, it’s time to be a great leader.
Camp Timberlake and Camp Merri-Mac