Paralyzed by Indecision? Try a ‘subliminal’ coin flip

by Brad Isaac on February 6, 2006

Ok, you have what feels like a difficult decision to make.  You feel torn between two alternatives and you can’t make up your mind.  Should you get the red one or the blue one?  Should you meet this person for dinner or that one?  If you do finally decide, you might wonder if you picked the right one. 

One trick I’ve used for years to flesh out what I think is the right decision when I find myself stuck is a simple coin flip.  However, I am recommending a twist to the old coin flip.  There is no luck involved at all, but instead a glimpse at your true decision.

There are two parts to this coin flip.  The first part is to choose what decision ‘wins’ if  heads appears which wins if tails takes the flip ("If it’s heads I’ll get the red one, if it’s tails I’ll get the blue one.")  Then flip the coin.  Don’t try to influence whether it lands heads or tails,  just let it do its job.

The second part of this trick is the "sanity check" of the results.  If it landed heads, how do you feel about the result?  Do you wish for it to be tails?  Or were you relieved it was heads? 

When I use this trick, I don’t rely on the outcome of coin flip to decide.  This is important.  Instead I listen to the feeling I have when the outcome reveals itself.  When I first learned about it years ago, the speaker suggested the coin flip gets you emotionally involved and signals the subconscious to make a report.  The coin toss is a game where there has to be a winner and a loser.  So you will have an emotional investment in the outcome and your "true want" will come to the forefront of your mind while the coin is in the air.

When the coin lands and reveals the outcome, simply listen to your inner voice.  If you hear a cringe of disappointment like, "ugh!  I wish it was heads."  Or relief, "whew…I’m sure glad it is tails."  Then you’ll know what your true wish is.  It’s only up to you then to ignore the results of the coin flip and go ahead and choose what your mind told you to pick.

This coin flip trick has helped me make many decisions much easier.  But not only that, it has made me more confident in them.  It has also helped clients and friends when they feel stuck while deciding between two alternatives. 

However, I get strange looks when someone asks me if they are making the right decision and I answer by saying "I don’t know, let’s flip a coin."

The coin-flip trick works.  Give it a try.

Technorati Tags: Productivity, decision making, gtd, tips, lifehacks

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February 7, 2006 at 4:32 pm

Great idea. I also like this one, from Steve Pavlina:

Do It Now

> It is absolutely imperative that you develop the habit of making decisions as soon as possible. I use a 60-second rule for almost every decision I have to make, no matter how big or important. Once I have all the data to make a decision, I start a timer and give myself only 60 seconds to make a firm decision.

B. Riley February 8, 2006 at 12:21 pm

So. . . I understand the idea of the subliminal coin flip, but I was under the impression that there was no real coin involved with that.

So do you use a coin, or not? I was just thinking how great that idea is until I read the part about using a coin. I think I’m confused. ;-)

February 8, 2006 at 2:07 pm

Yes, I use the coin. Without a coin, you don’t get the emotional reaction.

Many times, when we say we are undecided, we do know what we want, but for some reason or another we don’t want to admit it. The coin pushes the envelope.

Hope this makes sense..

B. Riley February 8, 2006 at 9:05 pm

Makes perfect sense. I guess from the “subliminal” word, I immediately thought it was a mental coin flip. Which I thought was neat b/c you’re sort of cognitively arriving at the “right” decision.

NOW who doesn’t make sense? ;-)

February 13, 2006 at 3:29 am

My wife and I discovered the joy of flipping a coin to help make a solid decision.

I think most recently we used it to choose between to kitchen scales.

We actually add a twist to this that possibly ties into the emotional attachment. We ask the coin if it is the year 2000, heads for yes, tails for no. If it doesn’t tell the truth we try another coin that will tells the “truth”.

After that, if the coin chooses the option we don’t like – we still take the option we actualy want.

That said, the coin technique works!

June 23, 2008 at 12:20 am

Interesting take on the coin flip. I think it’s really the same as “going with your gut” or letting instinct or intuition help you make decisions. Some people need to believe in this more, the coin exercise should help. Thanks for sharing.

July 1, 2008 at 1:04 pm

tried this, somehow mis-flicked it and somehow it landed next to the wall its side, neither heads nor tales…what is it it trying to tell me lol….

February 14, 2009 at 3:36 am

This is an interesting trick. Not sure if I like the idea of deciding anything on a coin toss, though; even a mental one.

Kevins last blog post..Relationships: The Two Commandments

Tara July 10, 2009 at 11:45 am

Am I allowed to send this? Have a great trip!

Brad Isaac July 11, 2009 at 2:05 pm

Send it where?

November 25, 2009 at 3:01 pm

I like your thinking, I also flip a coin on a lot of things. It help me reinforce that some little things just aren’t worth sweating over!

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