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Flip A Coin

Flip a coin

“Happiness is a form of courage.”

– Holbrook Jackson

I am often asked “does positivity really work?”. This often happens after my statement “Human positivity is like a virus, is contagious and it transmits human to human”. Usually the question goes something like this “what happens if positivity does not work Doctor?”,  I say “Then increase the dosage”,  I also do say if you are troubled by a decision, be positive and flip a coin. 

I was surprised that this theory of making decisions based on the flip of a coin could help you live a more positive and happier life. Researchers found that those who make choices using a coin toss are more likely to go ahead with the decision, are more satisfied and have higher overall happiness six month down the line.

I was thinking about all of this when my father in law was diagnosed with terminal cancer and we were trying to decide if he should stay with us at our home or go home. Of course, we wanted him to stay close, but also retain his freedom.

Decisions which affect other people’s happiness and health are probably the most difficult.

My coin flip would not work as my subconscious would always reflect what emotionally I wanted, for him to stay with us, when he wanted and would be happier at home.

I remembered this story from the great book Chicken Soup for the Soul. Think Possible: 101 Stories About Using a Positive Attitude to Improve Your Life.

Many years ago, Norman Cousins was diagnosed as “terminally ill”. He was given six months to live. His chance for recovery was 1 in 500. He could see that worry, depression and anger in his life contributed to – and perhaps helped cause – his disease.

He wondered, “If illness can be caused by negativity, can wellness be created by positivity?”

No, he did not flip a coin, as far as I known, but he did have a decision to make between positivity and despair.

He decided to make an experiment of himself. Laughter was one of the most positive activities he knew.

So, he decided to be positive about positivity he rented all the funny movies he could find – Keaton, Chaplin, Fields, the Marx Brothers. (This was before VCRs, so he had to rent the actual films.)

He read funny stories. He asked his friends to call him whenever they said, heard or did something funny.

His pain was so great he could not sleep. Laughing for 10 solid minutes, he found, relieved the pain for several hours so he could sleep. He fully recovered from his illness and lived another 20 happy, healthy, and productive years. (His journey is detailed in his book, Anatomy of an Illness).

He credits visualisation, the love of his family and friends, and laughter for his recovery.

Some people think laughter is a waste of time. It is a luxury, they say, a frivolity, something to indulge in only every so often.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Laughter is essential to our equilibrium, to our well-being, to our aliveness. If we’re not well, laughter helps us get well; if we are well, laughter helps us stay that way.

Since Cousins’ ground-breaking subjective work, scientific studies have shown that laughter has a curative effect on the body, the mind and the emotions. I often in workshop as part of my teaching, during a break take out my phone and start laughing, and laughing and laughing. We video the room and it is amazing how many people join in even though they do not know what I am laughing at, and how the laughing and smiling spreads around the room. In fact when I show the video replay people start laughing again. So, if you like laughter, consider it sound medical advice to indulge in it as often as you can. If you don’t like laughter, then take your medicine – laugh anyway.

Happiness is a direction, not a place.

— Sydney J. Harris

Use whatever makes you laugh. Jokes, sit coms, movies etc. Incorporate funny things into your environment. It could be a goofy picture of your friends, family or pets; a page-a-day calendar; a mug with a witty saying or cartoon. Humor and laughter reduce the risk of developing chronic health conditions. Don’t worry about what clothes you should wear, as a smile goes with any outfit.

Give yourself permission to laugh – long and loud and out loud – whenever anything strikes you as funny. The people around you may think you’re strange, but sooner or later they’ll join in even if they don’t know what you’re laughing about. Some diseases may be contagious, but none is as contagious as that which helps people feel good. . . laughter.

Cousins was a lifetime believer in the power of hope, and in the realism of optimism. One of his well-known lines, “Life is an adventure in forgiveness,” has survived him. Cousins died of heart failure on November 30, 1990, in LA having survived years longer than his doctors predicted: 10 years after his first heart attack, 26 years after his collagen illness, and 36 years after his doctors first diagnosed his heart disease.

It makes the decision about my Father in law much easier for me …. where would he be happy?


Here are some things to think about that may make you smile.

What is the most amusing goal you had as a child for what you’d become as an adult? What hilarious superpower would you want if you were a superhero for a day? What is your favorite funny quote? What’s the best prank you’ve ever played on someone?  What’s the funniest name you’ve ever heard?  If you could switch genders for a week, what would you do?

THE MENTAL FILTER – 3 things to consider

  1. Do people see your smile first?
  2. When was the last time you laughed out loud for a long time?
  3. Are you someone who gives energy to others or takes it away?

I can take you to success. I coach ordinary people every day to do extra-ordinary things. I coach extra-ordinary people to do extra-ordinary things. The difference is those who have a dream, and are prepared to follow said dream, are extraordinary, and just need a structure and support system to kick off that journey, which will finish with them sliding in fast sideways to the grave, totally worn out from the relentless living of their dreams, screaming out loudly “Wow holy sh*t, what a ride!”

If that is you – start today! If you are looking for coaching on change for yourself or your organisation, or would like more information on the work we do on Personal, Professional, or Organisational Change, please contact us on

About Dr Maurice Duffy

Irish. Author, Professor, Coach and Business strategist. The person Australian Captain Steve Smith credited with helping him back from his cricket ban. Coach to two Ashes wins. Coach to CEOs, Politicians and some of the best know international sports starts including Olympians. BBC ‘Thought for the Week’. Coached business leaders and organizations in 80 countries. Works with charities to do with Mental Health. Lives in North East England with his wife and 11-year-old son.