It's advice that most people have received at some point: At moments of professional uncertainty, draw up a pro and con list to help you weigh the benefits and drawbacks of an opportunity.
This method may sound effective, but Uber's Bozoma Saint John says writing down the positive and negative potential outcomes of an opportunity backfired in her early career. In fact, on a recent episode of The Tim Ferriss Show, the chief brand officer said she'd tell her younger self to ditch the lists and trust her gut.
"It's very personal to me and doesn't work for everybody," she tells Ferriss. "But what I have found in my experience is that when I make pro and con lists it's usually because I am trying to talk myself out of a good idea or talk myself into a really bad one."
Instead, Saint John says she has learned to trust herself, and whens she's truly done that, her decision has worked in her favor.
"There has been time and time again where I have been right and I couldn't have explained it to myself or anyone else," she says. "So the pro and con list has gone by the wayside. I just don't do that anymore."
Instead, when evaluating an opportunity, she says she goes into a quiet space and asks herself key questions like, "What do I want to do? What does this feel like? Am I happy about this? Does it bring me joy?"
University of Virginia psychology professor and author Tim Wilson agrees with Saint John's method. He tells Business Insider that the downside of pro and con lists is that we sometimes talk ourselves into what sounds right, rather than identifying what we really want.
"What happens is we bring to mind what's easy to put into words and sounds like a plausible reason for doing something, but that doesn't always capture how we truly feel," he says. "People sometimes talk themselves into feelings they didn't necessarily have."
Rather than drafting a pro and con list in the future, try taking a few seconds to really contemplate what this decision will mean for your future. The last thing you want to do is waste time on over-analyzing an opportunity that you know from the start isn't right for you.
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