Thursday, July 22, 2010

Trust Your Instinct … but Not Exclusively

I’ve always believed that, as a professional communicator, you have to trust your instinct. But if you rely on instinct alone, you’re bound to get into trouble from time to time.

For example, instinct would tell you that older Americans have a lot to worry about, right? Financial pressures. The fate of Medicare. Their children’s futures. Aches and pains. Wrinkles.

My instinct would tell me that growing older increases stress levels and possibly decreases happiness. Not so, according to a Gallup survey cited in The New York Times. A recent study based on the survey found that “by almost any measure, people get happier as they get older.”

From age 18 to age 50, people generally feel increasingly unhappy as they grow older … until they hit 50. At that point, there’s a sharp uptick, and they become happier as they age. In fact, they are actually even happier at the age of 85 than when they were 18. No one knows why.

These findings challenge conventional wisdom and defy instinct — teaching us that the safest course of action is to trust your instinct, but not exclusively. Always balance instinct with analysis.

Technorati Tags: trust your instincts, Medicare, communications, Gallup survey, New York Times, happiness, Makovsky

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