Convince Yourself

When you’re deliberating over a big decision, how often are you really doing that – versus justifying the snap decision you already made?

We all do it, so don’t feel overly flawed or bad. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fight against that impulse.

Step One: Know when to trust your gut. By process of elimination, don’t trust it any other time. Make a mental list of all of your highly specific areas of expertise. Don’t make the mistake of assuming any knowledge or expertise transfer into any other realms. If you’re a brilliant cardiologist, then you can trust your gut about someone’s irregular heartbeat. That doesn’t mean you can trust your gut about someone’s skin condition, let alone about macroeconomics, personal relationships, or real estate. There’s no such thing as general brilliance.

(Don’t believe me? Go look up some things Albert Einstein said on matters besides physics.)

Step Two: If you’re in one of the 99.99% of realms where your gut instinct is biased to the point of garbage, listen to it anyway. Don’t act on it, but listen. Write down what you think your decision should be.

Step Three: Feed all the “little demons” of bias. Wait three days. Sleep. Get exercise. Eat well. Relax and make sure you’re not mad about something unrelated. Get a hug or six. Go outside. Take your vitamins. After three days of doing that, come back and look at your decision that you wrote down (but didn’t act on yet). And hey, if this seems like way too much trouble – then the decision can’t be that important, can it?

Step Four: In a good and healthy mental state, use all of your formidable mental powers to convince yourself of the opposite course of action from what you wrote down. Assume you were as wrong as possible initially. You got it exactly, 180-degrees backwards. Spend hours researching the opposite case. Become an expert on the other view. Again, if this is too much trouble – then accept that the decision wasn’t that consequential.

Step Five: Act. By this point, you may not be right but you’re not getting any righter. Do what you have to, and be ready to learn from whatever happens.

If you won’t give the major decisions in your life this treatment, then you’ve yielded control of your life to your impulses and biases. Good luck.

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