In a well-known study by Shiv and Fedorikhin entitled Heart and Mind in Conflict, groups of people were asked to remember a 2-digit or a 7-digit number. Then the people in the study were brought into a room and offered two snacks. Fruit or chocolate cake. Those who had to remember the longer number were two times as likely to go for the chocolate cake.
The premise is that when we have to hold on to too much information, we don’t make great decisions. We are on information overload and we don’t have the capacity to think through the next step.
This made me wonder about how many days in life this happens? With information coming at us from phones, emails, social media, televisions, colleagues, family members, teachers, coaches and more, where is the room to think critically? Where is the space to stop, weigh the options and make a choice? This is why we hear about routines, meal preparation, laying clothes out, and planning schedules ahead of time.
And do we have a choice in our own lives to remember the smaller number? Are there items we can remove from our memory list to leave our brain open for more important things? Who and what is renting space in our head for free? And why are we letting them in?
Writer and artist Maira Kalman said, “Wonderful things happen when your brain is empty.”
The best ideas come when you are in the shower or out for a walk because there is space for connecting dots and growing seeds into trees. How can we empty our minds today?