coin flip

A Simple Coin Toss Could Determine YOUR Future

I’m always fascinated by research results that make me go “hmmm”. Today I have one of those to share with you.

Sometimes it’s not a good “hmmm” – because my thought process is – “you mean someone PAID them to do that research?” Or, “Why did they bother? That’s just common sense!”

Other times I can glean something useful or at least thought-provoking – good fodder for a discussion with friends or family. That’s where this one falls. And because you are my friend (or at least you’ve invested in our relationship by reading this post) and because some among you will make this choice – today I’m discussing it with you!

The study / research results that hold today’s interest may apply to you if you are thinking of leaving your current job, or life situation, to become an independent advocacy professional. It was published in The Review of Economic Studies in May 2020, and is titled:

Heads or Tails: The Impact of a Coin Toss on Major Life Decisions and Subsequent Happiness

by Steven D Levitt, University of Chicago and NBER (The National Bureau of Economic Research)

woman thinking from PxHere

(You can read the entire overview here.)

The study was performed with a large-scale randomized field group on subjects who were struggling with important life decisions like quitting a job, or ending a relationship. Each of them flipped a coin to make the decision. Six months later, those who were told by the coin toss to make the change (and did) were happier than those who were told by the coin toss not to make the change (and didn’t.)

The conclusion by the researchers is that when we are too cautious about making big life changes, it can impact our level of happiness.

No coin tosses for me!

Now – true confession here – I figured out decades ago – that trusting my gut would get me where I needed to be. I further learned to separate my gut instinct from wishful thinking (which is an even bigger accomplishment). I learned those lessons the hard way, but learn them I did. I’ve managed my life abiding by that trust since then, including making some HUGE decisions with the snap of my fingers because of that trust ( like fighting with the doctors who wanted me to start chemo, getting married 100 days after I met my husband in 2006 after being single for 18 years, deciding to move to Florida – over lunch. Yes, some biggies!)

So, to me, being able to do both those things means I remove a lot of risk from a big decision. It’s fear of the risk, the fear of outcomes from taking a risk, that makes us cautious.

So with that sort of understanding, I can see how these research results could be helpful, especially to those who haven’t yet learned to trust their guts, and separate that trust from wishful thinking. Trusting in the coin toss removes some of the risk-fear. If that’s something you deal with, it could give you the impetus to see that you owe these sorts of big changes to yourself, that you are worth the risk, that the risk means you are also investing in making the outcomes work, even six months later (or, as in my examples, decades later)…

The Risk is SOOO Very Worth It!

So – what’s my advice to you? If you are considering a change in your professional status to “professional advocate” or “professional care manager”, and you are struggling with that decision, feeling risk-averse, then my advice to you is to do these three things:

  • Ask yourself: what does your gut tell you?
  • Ask yourself: does it tell you to move forward because you know the support is available to you to make it happen? Or is it wishful thinking? (I can give this answer – the support IS available! But you have to invest your time and energy into making it work for you.)
  • penny - from Wikimedia CommonsFinally – go ahead and flip that coin if you want to: Heads – you take the risk. Tails – you make no changes. Or vice versa if you please! Then move forward based on the outcomes.

Which decision will make you happier? When you look back on your life, will you be happy with what you decide today? Did the coin toss really have much to do with it at all?

APHA will welcome you with open arms. That’s the support you need. Next steps are up to you. Flip that coin!


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