As a deep thinker and gifted storyteller, Johnson is the right author to tackle the topic. He’s at his best when analyzing impossibly complex decisions ... What are the habits of people who excel at long-term thinking? One of Johnson’s thought-provoking points is that they read novels, which are ideal exercises in mental time travel and empathy ... After reading Farsighted, am I more aware of all the difficulties of making long-term decisions? Definitely. Do I feel better equipped to make those decisions? I’m not sure ... Johnson left me more convinced than ever of the psychologist Ellen Langer’s advice for making tough choices: 'Don’t make the right decision. Make the decision right.' Since you’ll never have enough information to make the best choice, all you can do is make the best of the choice you’ve made.
Mr. Johnson starts to lose steam toward the end of Farsighted as he discusses the challenges of making high-stakes global decisions ... But it’s also in this final gasp that Mr. Johnson seems to speak from the heart, revealing his passion for literature—in particular, George Eliot’s Middlemarch ... Mr. Johnson reminds us that, fundamentally, choices concern competing narratives, and we’re likely to make better choices if we have richer stories, with more fleshed-out characters, a more nuanced understanding of motives, and a deeper appreciation of how decisions are likely to reverberate and resound.
His argument is more than an attack on simple short-termism, a case frequently made by behavioral economists dismayed at human irrationality, or critics of corporate leaders unable to plan beyond their next quarterly results. Instead, Johnson is more positive, claiming a handful of institutions have 'consciously adopted strategies and routines designed to produce more farsighted results' ... If Farsighted has a flaw, however, it is perhaps that this list is not eclectic enough. There is by now plenty of evidence that large-scale deliberative processes can help improve all manner of policies. Whether individuals can also follow such complex methods remains unclear. Johnson admits that he did not when he eventually settled on a compromise plan to move his family to California for only half of each year. Still, Johnson thinks there are still a few practical tips that can help most people make more effective decisions.