Facing a difficult life decision? Go against the status quo – you’ll be happier in the long run.
That’s the conclusion reached by Steven Levitt, an economist known for his 2005 book “Freakonomics,” in a study that was published Monday in “The Review of Economic Studies.”
“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,” Levitt said in a statement.
To run the experiment, Levitt created a website, freakonomicsexperiments.com, where volunteers were invited to choose major life decisions they were pondering such as “Should I quit my job?” “Should I propose?” or “Should I adopt?”
But instead of following the typical paths of reaching big decisions – talking to friends and family, listing out the pros and cons, losing sleep – users would simply flip a virtual coin to get their answer.
Those who stuck to it were then sent two surveys following these decisions – one at the two-month mark and one at the six-month mark.
The short-term survey found that participants favored maintaining the status quo, i.e. not making whatever change in their life. But at the six-month mark, that changed – most people wished they had switched things up.
And for participants who were instructed by the coin toss to make a change, particularly for big decisions like getting a divorce or quitting a job, they reported being happier at both the two-month and six-month marks, and that they would have made the same decision again.
“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,” said Levitt.
But what does this all mean?
The results, the study says, suggests a “substantial bias” against making changes when it comes to significant life decisions. Basically, when it comes to big decisions, most people tend to be extremely cautious, and lean toward not making a change.
This study, though, shows that opting for change can make people happier in the long run.
So go ahead – mix things up. Or toss the coin and let fate decide for you.