Quit Or Perservere?
July 27, 2023
I am not at all happy in my current job. Should I persevere or quit?
I am not happy in this relationship. Should I give it more time, or should I move out?
I am not happy with the degree program. My parents want me to continue. Should I continue or not?
Many of us encounter such choices in life, and we struggle, unable to decide. What is the right thing to do?
Steven Levitt of Freakonomics fame conducted a fascinating social experiment in 2013 to understand how the human mind works on such issues.
He created a website that allowed visitors to flip a virtual coin to help them decide between quitting or persevering. But to use this facility of a digital coin flip, participants had to register on the website, details of the life decision they were struggling with. The site would then assign one side of the decision, like staying in your job, to heads and the other side of the decision, like quitting your job, to tails. Then when users clicked on the image of the coin, the website showed them the randomized outcome of the virtual coin flip.
Now, in case you are wondering- How many people would actually go to a website to flip a digital coin to help them make a life-changing “quit or persevere decision”? Hold your breath- Over twenty thousand people visited the site, registered their specific “quit or persevere” issue, and flipped the virtual coin.
All twenty thousand participants clearly felt that the decision to quit or persevere was so evenly balanced that flipping a coin seemed like a rational choice.
The experiment took an intriguing turn when Steven Levitt followed up with the coin flippers after six months to gauge their happiness levels. The results were eye-opening: regardless of whether they decided to quit on their own or after the coin flipped in favor of quitting, those who chose to quit were happier on average than those who chose to stay on and persevere.
The conclusion from this social experiment was the following.
If you feel like you’ve got a close call between quitting and persevering, quitting is likely the better choice !!
This experiment reveals a powerful decision-making heuristic. If you ever find yourself at a crossroads, feeling unhappy or stuck, the better choice might be to quit and open doors to new possibilities. Trust your instincts and take that leap of faith toward a happier future.