In Defense of the Default

Defense DefaultWe’re unique, and we want everyone to know it, too. So we customize. Monogram our purses, redesign our blog templates, search for that perfect one-of-a-kind vintage shirt no one else will own. We google recipes for the perfect pumpkin pie, even though the muffins we usually make take a third of the time to bake and would have been just as satisfying. We carefully curate the perfect outfit for the meeting even though we suspect no one will notice. Shopping is our version of hunting: we hit the mall and in the 27th store, we find jeans that we believe to be different from the ones everyone else is buying. That will mark out our uniqueness for the world to see.

This takes time, money, and brain space. All of which can be used in better ways. Decision fatigue is real, and we’ve all had to deal with the lack of time and money. Therefore, I suggest we start using the default and honor other people’s general intelligence by assuming that they know everyone is unique, without our special bells and whistles telling them so.

Some areas where you could forego uniqueness in favor of the default, i.e. things you don’t need to customize to prove you’re human:

  • The background picture on your computer
  • Your clothes – the internet got so excited about uniforms for a reason. Pick one outfit, once and then wear a version of that every day. Currently, mine is jeans, t-shirt, cardigan, and a scarf.
  • Your blog template
  • Your meal at a restaurant. Order a set menu or a special and see what happens.
  • The things you bake/cook for events – I’m known and loved for my brownies and scones, and no one has ever so much as mentioned a lack of variety.
  • Where you shop. Buy the same pants/shirts/socks/whatever from the same store whenever they are in need of replacement and stop searching for the holy grail of uniqueness.
  • The fact that you shop at all. Start a shopping ban and make not shopping the default. Take some time off from purchasing decisions and live a minimalist’s dream.
  • Your hair. Pick a couple hairstyles and alternate instead of being confronted with a million options of braids, waves, and chignons. Or go short and pick only one.

The default doesn’t have to be boring. It means choosing things you love once and deciding to end the search for something better (that is unlikely to come around anyways). It’s fully embracing “good enough” and basking in saved time, money, and brain space.

In addition to that, we can use the default in our favor: it’s a great tool to build new habits. Pick one exercise class that you will go to as a default. Put it on your calendar, marked “non-negotiable”. After a while, not going won’t even feel like an option. Add 15 minutes of something you’ve been meaning to do forever to your morning or evening routine: writing, reading, cleaning, yoga, cuddling, knitting, the options are truly endless. This works for food, too, e.g. when you are trying to abstain from something: when I was a vegetarian, I made that decision once, and since it was the new default, I was never tempted to eat meat. Establish a new healthy breakfast default. A default grocery list comprised of all things healthy. Need I go on?

Embracing the default helps us make decisions once and then eliminates the need to think, because we’ll be on carefully curated autopilot and use that brain space for the things that matter. Eliminate decisions, add life.

4 thoughts on “In Defense of the Default

  1. I like that living the default, pick one and stay with it. You are right I remember when I stopped eating meat I was so shocked that I did not need it at all or when I stopped watching tv….but living in this vast world and being a tiny speck I do try so hard to mark my uniqueness lest I disappear into the crowd…love the writing


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