Choice is both the biggest opportunity for life purpose and the biggest cause of stress in our lives.

Life is full of choices. (I know, what a profound statement.) Some of them are small. We choose what to eat for lunch, who to text, what to watch on TV. Conversely, some choices are quite significant. We choose what to do for work, who to marry, and where to live. We also choose what type of person we want to be and what life we want to live.

The problem is that these big overarching questions aren’t quickly answered. We can’t simply know the answers. Over time, we have to discover them – a process that requires self-awareness, vulnerability, and a lot of patience.

Culprit number one: our human nature makes decision-making stressful.

The human brain has evolved over millions of years. For each new adaptation, a few of the old functions remained. What used to keep us safe and alive (aka fight-or-flight survival instincts) now wreaks havoc on our emotional states.

In other words, our bodies and brains begin to view life choices as threats.

Taking steps to define your personal philosophy will help. But before we get to that, let’s turn to how external factors make life choices more stressful.

Culprit number two: we’re far more influenced by social norms than we realize.

As if our psychology doesn’t already do enough, our innate need for belonging also adds a layer of stress to making decisions.

You see, in prehistoric times, we relied on our social belonging to survive. This need didn’t go away; it merely changed. We still need to feel accepted and appreciated by the people around us.

In many ways, feeling a sense of belonging is positive. Our relationships give us meaning and happiness. They also help improve our psychological and physical health. (Namely, because they are a need, not a want.)

Unfortunately, this need also makes decision-making more stressful. We experience vulnerability hangovers when we risk rejection and sometimes avoid it altogether.

Culprit number three: our brains experience decision-fatigue, which limits our motivation and willpower.

You might be thinking, So I’ve got to fight back against my internal brain AND my external society?! This sounds exhausting.

Well, friends, I’m not going to sugarcoat it for you… it is. I probably don’t have to remind you of the anxiety, limiting beliefs, and lack of motivation you feel daily. (Nor will I make you reflect on your failed goals or your lost sense of purpose.

You see, every time you make a decision, you must tap into your brainpower and motivation. The bigger the decision, the more energy you must summon (and, usually, the more anxiety you’ve got to fight back).

Unfortunately, our brainpower and motivation is not an unlimited supply. Quite the opposite, actually. We’ve got a finite amount of energy to tap into each day.

Even more unfortunately, the changes in our society require more and more energy from us each day.

This excess decision-making takes us away from what we want. It leaves us little energy to contemplate the important questions that bring us meaning.

Designing your environment for success is critical in preserving your willpower. The other essential step you can take? Learn how defining your personal philosophy can eradicate many of these obstacles.

A personal philosophy is a clear, concise principle (or set of principles) that will guide your life. Your personal philosophy is grounded in your core values; in essence, your philosophy and values define who you are, what you stand for, and what brings you to life. Learn How to Define Your Personal Philsophy: Six Steps to make your choices easier.

Author's Bio: 

Kara McDuffee is the creator and author of My Question Life, a blog dedicated to help you build self-awareness, be more vulnerable, and discover yourself. Learn how to reclaim your life and find purpose in her online guide Discover Yourself.