As you scroll through the J. Crew clearance section at work this morning, we have a thought for you to consider.
Many CEOs, entrepreneurs, and even a former President of the United States of America shun variety and stick to one simple outfit when they dress in the morning.
We’ll let the 44th president explain the phenomenon.
“You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” President Obama told Vanity Fair in 2012. “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.” That’s right. Even Mr. Obama, who oozed personality and style and was photographed constantly—and presumably had access to whatever wardrobe he wanted—chose not to choose. And it worked for him.
President Obama and other successful people know the benefits of avoiding “decision fatigue.”
The strange occurrence takes place when a person’s decision-making ability deteriorates after they’ve had to make too many choices. By eliminating less important decisions throughout the day (like what to eat and how to dress), a person can save mental energy for the decisions that really matter. Roy F. Baumeister, a social psychologist at Florida State University, says that every decision requires a little bit of willpower. “It’s the same willpower that you use to be polite or to wait your turn or to drag yourself out of bed or to hold off going to the bathroom,” he told The New York Times. He continued, “Your ability to make the right investment or hiring decision may be reduced simply because you expended some of your willpower earlier when you held your tongue in response to someone’s offensive remark or when you exerted yourself to get to the meeting on time.” Or, to a lesser extent, when you spent 20 minutes deciding which pair of shoes would impress your boss.
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, also embraces one steadfast outfit.
Zuckerberg is rarely seen in anything other than his signature gray t-shirt and jeans. When someone asked him at a Q and A why he wears the same t-shirt every day, he responded, “I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community.” Joshua Becker, a contributor to Forbes, performed an enlightening experiment regarding the one-outfit strategy. He wore the same gray shirt and khakis to work every day for a week and expected instant criticism. “Because of our conditioning, I imagined everyone looking at my recycled outfit and judging me for it,” he wrote. “However, one week into my experiment, nobody mentioned anything. And in that silence, I was liberated.”
Simplifying your wardrobe could benefit you in surprising ways.
Becker said wearing one outfit had multiple benefits. As he had hoped, it reduced his decision fatigue. But it also allowed him to wear what looked good on him and minimize his wardrobe. So start wearing what looks good on you without worrying about variety! While you’re at it, let your friends or significant other choose which restaurant you eat at or what TV show you watch after work from time to time. That small act just might help you perform better when making more meaningful decisions.