How do successful people make long-term decisions?

Richard Muller, Prof Physics, UCBerkeley, author “Now-The Physics of Time” (Norton, 2016)

My wife Rosemary came up with an approach that I have used over decades. (We celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary tomorrow.) The answer has two steps. It is important to use both steps, and not depend on just one or the other.

Step 1. Start by making an elaborate list of all the important pluses and minuses. Best, put it on a spreadsheet. Determine the importance of each item, and compute the combination with the highest score.

Step 2. Throw away the spreadsheet and make a seat-of-the-pants gut decision based on your intuition.

Many people make the mistake of jumping right to step 2 without doing step 1. But if you do that, your gut will be unprepared. It will not know all of the issues, and your intuition will be unreliable.

Many people make the mistake of doing step 1 and only step 1. It seems logical, maybe even scientific. The problem with that step is that you can’t really articulate what is important to you and what isn’t. Step 1 depends too much on your intellect, on what you think you should want.

In the end, you must trust your instinct. But only after you have informed yourself of all the facts and all the analyses. You don’t really have to make a spreadsheet, but you’ve got to examine all the facts and think of all the pluses and minuses. Then let your instinct decide.


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