“The Shots Not Taken”: New Study Suggests Taking More Chances Can Make You HappierSubmitted by Bernhardt Wealth Management on June 8th, 2020
National Hockey League Hall-of-Famer Wayne Gretzky is the all-time scoring leader, with more goals and assists than any other player: 894 regular-season goals and an astounding 1,963 regular-season assists—128 goals and almost a thousand assists more than his nearest competitor. Most sports fans have heard his succinct analysis of the secret to his success: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
Like many proverbs, Gretzky’s words make intuitive sense, and most of us can think of similar pithy advice: “No pain, no gain”; “If at first you don't succeed, try, try again”; “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”; and many other variations. But recently, University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt (author of the bestselling Freakonomics) conducted an unusual study that seems to confirm that you really might be better off “taking your shot” rather than making the more conservative choice.
Levitt devised a website that invited visitors facing a momentous life decision—whether to have a baby; possibly launching a new career; even embarking on a new diet—to make a virtual coin toss that would make the decision for them: heads, you take the plunge; tails, you keep everything in your life basically the same. Some 20,000 individuals took Levitt up on the offer and agreed to permit Levitt to follow up with them two and six months later to find out how the participants felt about the results of their choices.
Levitt found that significant numbers of those who made the leap of faith—either because of the virtual coin flip or simply because they decided it was the right thing to do—reported being happier and more satisfied with their lives than those who kept things the same. “I believe that people are too cautious when it comes to making a change,” Levitt observed. And he’s not alone, either. A study conducted by researchers at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management found that most people tend to regret things they haven’t done more than things they have.
Apparently, our human nature typically defaults in favor of the status quo. That makes a certain amount of sense, if you consider that our hunter-gather forebears depended on a certain amount of consistency in order to survive. They needed to know that a supply of water and forage was going to be available; they learned ways of making tools and defending themselves from predators and the environment that were effective, and they tended to stick with those methods. It was the best way to ensure survival.
But in our modern culture, innovation may be more important than consistency in order to thrive. Levitt’s research, the Kellogg study, and other similar efforts may be telling us that the “same old, same old” is less likely to provide the deep satisfaction we crave in a fast-moving, modern world.
What’s the takeaway? Well, the research probably doesn’t endorse making rash decisions about relationships, business, or investing, but it may indicate that you ought to pay more attention to that nagging aspiration or dream that just won’t quite ever go away. It may also suggest that, when you’re having a tough time deciding between two equally reasonable alternatives, you should perhaps lean toward the choice that takes you in the direction of change or personal development.
If you’re wondering whether it’s time to make a change in your approach to your investments, your financial plan, or other important personal or business matters, we are here to provide professional, fiduciary advice geared to your unique situation. We would enjoy the opportunity to get to know you and find out what is most important to you.