|My gut says: trust your gut!|
I care right now because I'm trying to make a big decision: what do I want to do with my life? Yikes. So, yeah, I'm interested in learning a bit about how to tackle this.
I stumbled upon research suggesting conscious thought is better in some contexts while intuitive decision-making is better in others. For example, check out this tidbit on decision-making. In that example, the conclusion was that experts performed best when they relied on unconscious thinking. Also, it sounds like expertise became less useful to expert decision-makers when they engaged in a conscious decision making process.
Hmm. So what does that mean for me? Here's what my gut tells me to do... When making this very complex decision I will engage in four steps:
1. Collect shit-loads of information - In essence, my goal is to actually become an expert on the topic that relates to the decision. What are all the variables? Pros, cons? List 'em out and learn them all. Gather as much information as possible about the decision and feed it to my brain like some giant super-computer (which is sort of is). But don't decide immediately.
2. Sleep on it - Next, I let all that information percolate through my nervous system. It will create new connections and recognize patterns. I will not be consciously aware of most of this. Also, getting more sleep will speed the process along and help with fidelity.
3. Repeat as long as possible - Every decision has a timeline. I will repeat the info-gathering and sleeping steps for as long as possible. How long can I reasonably delay making the decision? That may be a decision too, so fold that into the larger decision-making process and keep repeating for as long as is reasonable.
4. Trust my gut - Finally, once I've spent as much time as possible considering all the variables, I will trust my gut. At the end of that time, my super-computer-like brain will print out a small slip of paper (essentially a fortune cookie) and I will do what it says.
Why does this make sense? Here's my philosophy: the "conscious" part of our brain is a very tiny part of our brain. Also, it's evolutionarily new and isn't very good at multitasking. However, our brain has a lot of processing power that goes on behind the scenes and which contributes to all our decisions and actions. We ignore all that parallel processing at great risk.
Also, big decisions are very complicated and require an understanding of a lot of moving parts. While our conscious mind is a shitty multitasker, our brain at-large is great at multitasking (think driving and talking on the phone). Why not exploit that?
So, that's the plan. Hopefully it's a good decision...