Donuts + Decision Fatigue: A Secret Success Formula


SCENE: A local artisan donut shop buzzing with happy patrons. Sweet and savory smells fill the air accompanied by the grate of freshly roasted coffee beans. It’s a place engineered specifically for the sensations. It’s a foodie’s dream.


DONUT SHOP ATTENDEE: (speaking to newest patrons) Hi! Welcome to our donut shop, home of the city and the state’s most award-winning donut creations. How can I serve you?

HEALTH-MINDED COUPLE: (with stars in their eyes) I think we need a minute to decide. My, what an impressive selection you have. What’s YOUR favorite donut here?

DONUT SHOP ATTENDEE: (grinning) Probably the peach fritter or our salted caramel and whiskey – we’re actually sold out of it. But, the blueberry cream is delicious. So is our pumpkin spice cake…the tiramisu…the Boston Maple bar…toasted coconut…PB&J…(he prattles on)

HEALTH-MINDED COUPLE: Ahhhhhh…so many delicious-sounding choices. I guess I’ll have the peach fritter, says one…and I’ll have the cream cheese and apple pie, the other adds.

DONUT SHOP ATTENDEE: Excellent choices. What else? You can buy half a dozen for the price of 3 donuts today.

HEALTH-MINDED COUPLE: (internally debating about the remaining capacity of their stomachs…having just eaten burgers, fries and more) Errr…well, we were only planning for a single donut each.

DONUT SHOP ATTENDEE: Are you certain? Our donuts are just as tasty tomorrow morning…especially after a long day of travel.

HEALTH-MINDED COUPLE: (rationalizing) Well, we’re already having a donut. What’s the harm in enjoying a few more? And, since you offered….and the deal sounds so great. We’re in!

‘Guilty Remnants’


If you believed this story to be hypothetical to help me better illustrate my point, you’d be wrong. While it might not fit the classic “Decision Fatigue” model outlined by Roy Baumeister, it does well at highlighting a more subtle lesson we aimed to bake into the 10ex Back-to-School Challenge cake. Did you notice?

Classically defined decision fatigue occurs when we lose ability to decipher between what is important and what’s not. In other words, the more decisions we force ourselves to make, the more the quality of those decisions deteriorate. And, more fatigue leads to even more irrational trade-offs when making decisions. Car dealerships offer the most obvious place to witness decision fatigue. After the push and pull, after all the negotiation of sales price, and finally after the decision to purchase is made, what happens? Buyers are asked to make handfuls of other ‘bolt-on’ purchase decisions. This warranty, that coverage, this service, that product…how much quicker (less carefully) do buyers rationalize a glut of hundred-dollar decisions after deciding to spending thousands? I dare say, it’s often. The cumulative spend after agreeing upon final vehicle price is often much more than the consumer realizes. But, they rationalize it all away after a ‘win’ at the bargaining table.

Anyway, some of you likely considered the general nature of our 10ex Back-to-School Challenge to be simple – maybe even elementary. No performance metrics? No body measurements? No counting calories or macros? Why nothing complex? Simple. Because we like to see you succeed. And in our view, the success formula looks something like this:

good + good = EXCELLENT

The rules of the game were easy (we’re playing a game, right?). Be sure to train every day – without the added pressure to ‘perform.’ When you eat, eat from a broad list of approved foods. The challenge aimed to leverage success precisely in your favor. By making one very important decision, you made hundreds of other future decisions. Sneaky, eh? The single, important decision was simply to participate. All remaining challenge-based decisions were made for you…and guess what that did? It absolved everyone from the inevitable pits of decision fatigue. The “WHICH SINGLE DONUT DO I EAT?” question never occurred to you (hopefully). Nor did the “Should I exercise today?” doubt.

good exercise habits + good eating habits = EXCELLENT results

The body rewards execution, not ideas. And, while being a fan of ideas, adding complexity (confusion) for its own sake, only shines light on the fool. It cheapens the nature of what works. We believe proper diet and exercise not only yield better health, but often times frees up bandwidth to make us smarter, psychologically braver, more creative, more energetic and much more influential. That’s the kernel of what we’re truly after here. Simplicity is a worthy long-term pursuit that leads to sustainable health…wealth…and relationships. We hope that making the single decision to join us makes a thousand other decisions substantially easier.


G- aka a wannabe Donut Boy in TN



McKeown, G. (2014). Essentialism the disciplined pursuit of less. New York, NY: Crown Business.
Adams, S. (2013). How to fail at almost everything and still win big. New York, NY: Penguin Group

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