When flipping a coin produces the best decision

Piet Hein
Piet Hein (December 16, 1905–April 17, 1996) was a Danish scientist, mathematician, inventor, designer, author, and poet, often writing under the Old Norse pseudonym "Kumbel" meaning "tombstone". His short poems, known as gruks or grooks, first started to appear in the daily newspaper "Politiken" shortly after the Nazi occupation in April 1940 under the pseudonym "Kumbel Kumbell". Source: Wikipedia

Sometimes I’m stumped by a very difficult decision point, a fork in the road, an “answer with yes or no, no ifs and buts” type of question. Faced with that situation and with the kind of personality that I have, often I will agonize for days before coming up with a decision. Even then, while I go ahead with its implementation, it will take another round of self-convincing to assure myself that I made the right choice.

These recent years, however, I found a shortcut, which I sort of stumbled into while reading Piet Hein‘s Grooks series: Get a coin, think of your two choices, and assign them heads or tails. Then toss the coin in the air, catch it, but don’t check which side came up. At that very moment, you will find yourself wishing fervently that this or that side would come up. At that point, your inner brain will have announced its decision. The coin-flipping exercise is just a gesture of seeking cosmic confirmation.

Here is Piet Hein’s grook on coin flips:

A Psychological Tip

Whenever you’re called on to make up your mind, 
and you’re hampered by not having any, 
the best way to solve the dilemma, you’ll find, 
is simply by spinning a penny. 
No – not so that chance shall decide the affair 
while you’re passively standing there moping; 
but the moment the penny is up in the air, 
you suddenly know what you’re hoping.


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