The recently-republished Quartz article An economist’s rule for making tough life decisions draws from research by Steven Levitt, perhaps best-known for being co-author of the book Freakonomics.

The study asked people who were having a hard time making a decision to participate in a randomized digital coin toss on the website FreakonomicsExperiments.com. People asked questions ranging from “Should I quit my job?” to “Should I break up with my significant other?” and “Should I go back to school?” Heads meant they should take action. Tails, they stuck with the status quo.

Ultimately, 20,000 coins were flipped—and people who got heads and made a big change reported being significantly happier than they were before, both two months and six months later.

Here’s the takeaway, direct from Steven Levitt:

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.

Here’s another version of the takeaway, per the article author Sarah Todd:

If the choice is between action and inaction, and you’re genuinely unsure about what to do, choose action.

Again, this should be the tie-breaker. Obviously, if you are completely happy with the status quo, then there is no reason for change.

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Stuck on a Hard 50/50 Decision? Pick the Change, Avoid the Status Quo from My Money Blog.


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