Last year, Steven Levitt (best known for his book Freakonomics) conducted an interesting test. He set up a website for people that were considering making a major change in their life, such as quitting a job or ending a relationship, and the website flipped a coin for them — heads they make the change, tails they keep things the same. 20,000 people gave it a try.
Levitt published the results last year, and they were very clear that those people who made the change were happier than those that didn’t. Closely related is a study from the Kellogg School that found that we were more likely to regret things that we didn’t try versus things we tried and failed at. The regret hurt more than the failure did.
This isn’t to suggest that you should just create chaos and hope for happiness, but Levitt has a solid way to view these results:
“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.”
Making the change doesn’t guarantee happiness, but the regret of not taking the chance is likely to weigh much more heavily in the future.