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- American economist
Making big life decisions can be tricky. Between weighing up the pros and cons and taking every possible eventuality into consideration, it’s a marathon before you’ve even begun.
What if there was another way?
A new study has found that people are happier when they just flip a coin to help them make some of life’s toughest decisions.
It’s not just a snap feeling of happiness, either. According to the researchers, people who stuck to the decision the coin gave them were still feeling happier about their decision six months down the line.
While some people are over thinkers, trying to plan for every eventuality, others are just chronically indecisive, flitting from one decision to another.
University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt says that to truly prosper using the coin flip rule, you have to embrace what the coin says, particularly if it’s in relation to quitting something; a job, for example.
“Society teaches us ‘quitters never win and winners never quit,’ but in reality the data from my experiment suggests we would all be better off if we did more quitting.”
The study, which was published in The Review of Economic Studies, asked participants to use the coin to answer big life questions.
The questions ranged from “should I propose?” to “should I quit my job?” but people involved were also encouraged to ask their own big life questions using this method.
Following the coin flip, people involved in the research were surveyed two months after and then six months after the study took place.
Interestingly, the researchers didn’t note much of a change in behaviour after two months, but saw a spike in happiness levels among those who followed through on the coin’s decision after six months.
Levitt asked the participants whether they would make the same decision six months later and they agreed they would.
He argues that making a change when you’re in a tough spot is usually the more logical thing to do in order to encourage a happier life.
“A good rule of thumb in decision making is, whenever you cannot decide what you should do, choose the action that represents a change, rather than continuing the status quo,” Levitt suggests if people find themselves stuck in indecision.
While not everybody will be happy with making monumental decisions using a flip of a coin, it could provide you with a quick decision to everyday conundrums like “what should I have for dinner?” for example.