Warren Buffett knows how to make smart decisions. One is to say no to just about everything. Another is to hire the right people.

But there's one decision Buffett feels is the most important you will ever make:

Deciding who to marry. 

You want to associate with people who are the kind of person you'd like to be. You'll move in that direction. And the most important person by far in that respect is your spouse. I can't overemphasize how important that is.

Marry the right person. I'm serious about that. It will make more difference in your life.

Research backs him up. One study found that people with relatively prudent and reliable partners tend to perform better at work, earning more promotions, making more money, and feeling more satisfied with their jobs.

That's true for men and women. What the researchers call "partner conscientiousness" predicted future job satisfaction, income, and likelihood of promotion.

The Power of Partner "Conscientiousness"

According to the researchers, "conscientious" partners perform more household tasks, exhibit more pragmatic behaviors that their spouses are likely to emulate, and promote a more satisfying home life -- all of which enables their spouses to focus more on work.

As one researcher said, "These results demonstrate that the dispositional characteristics of the person one marries influence important aspects of one's professional life."

In non-research speak, a good partner sets a good example and makes it possible for you to be a better you.

That's definitely true for me. My wife is incredibly organized, juggling family, working multiple jobs, pursuing another advanced degree. She sets goals and achieves those goals. 

Her conscientiousness sometimes bugged me until I realized the only reason it got on my nerves was because her level of focus implicitly challenged my inherent laziness. Her example helped me realize the best way to get more done is to actually get more done.

She not only shows me that, she also helps me do that. And while she's still much more conscientious and organized than I am, she's definitely rubbed off on me in a very positive way.

Of course, this makes sense: As Jim Rohn says, we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with -- and that's particularly true where our significant others are concerned.

Bad habits rub off. Poor tendencies rub off. We all know that.

But good habits and good tendencies rub off too.

Plus, if one person is extremely organized and keeps your household train running on time, that frees the other up to focus more on work. (Of course, in a perfect world, both people would more or less equally share train-engineer duties so that both can better focus on their careers, whether those careers are in the home or outside.)

Keep in mind, I'm not recommending you choose your significant other based solely on conscientiousness. As the researchers say, "Marrying a conscientious partner could at first sound like a recipe for a rigid and lackluster lifestyle."

Nor am I suggesting you end a relationship if you feel your partner is lacking in those areas.

But it does appear that having a conscientious and prudent partner is part of the recipe for a better and more rewarding career.

So instead of expecting your partner to change, think about what you can do to be more supportive of your significant other.

Maybe you can take on managing your finances, or take care of more household chores, or repairs, maintenance, or schedules.

After all, the best way to lead is by example, and in time you may find that you and your significant other make an outstanding -- and mutually supportive -- team.

This will help you both achieve more of your goals.

And live a more satisfying and fulfilling life.

Published on: Feb 18, 2019
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