As I am frenetically punching the keys on my PC to keep my deadlines intact, my life partner is agonizingly waiting for me to join him for lunch. I have few decisions to make. If only I could be at two places!
Yeah, Right! Of course, like most, I cherish the family time and find it adorable that he would choose to whine about me not coming, instead of leaving me to eat alone (I know it is subjective). However, my deadlines (admittedly self-imposed) force me to prioritize.
These kinds of junctures are exactly something that we cross often. Think of any specific decision we most recently made amongst various appealing options. Probably we went ahead and chose the most convenient one. Most of our calls are just instinctive.
We probably chose to stay on the couch instead of turning on the washing machine or maybe we chose to water the plant instead of Netflix. We make many such accords. Most of them are trivial and insignificant: Pizza or Pasta?… Not really going to make much of a difference. Once done, we just move on. That is just the way life goes on.
Did you know: It seems we make 35,000 choices every day.
Now let me play the devil’s advocate and throw out a question… “So what would have happened had we chosen a different option?” More pertinently “What did we lose by not going down the proverbial road which we didn’t choose?” 🤔
By choosing not to wash my clothes, I have a bigger pile of laundry whenever I am doing it next. By choosing to water the plant I am contributing to the environment instead of spoiling it by indulging in Netflix (I know! Don’t be surprised, Netflixes of the world are significantly adding up to Global warming. That’s a topic for another day).
Decisions that matter
Of course, the losses we might have had by not choosing other options seem insignificant. However, what if we come across that one time where it actually matters, where it actually is a big opportunity that we have to pass.
Say we have two organizations very eager to recruit us. Assuming one is a tech behemoth where you are one amongst many, and another is an up-coming start-up that has killer products that may or may not turn out to be a brand to reckon with. We just cannot choose based only on its merits.
“Decisions are the frequent fabric of our daily design.” —Don Yaeger
When mulling over multiple choices, never assess the quality of any option in isolation. We simply cannot revoke certain decisions in our life. The ‘trial and error’ method can only take us so far. Unfortunately, our life does not have a restore button yet! (Though, that would spoil the whole fun of unpredictability in life). If we want to get the most out of life, we have to take account of the alternative possibilities!
Ideally, we all would like to be in two places or have a time machine or any of the other million crazy “Rick and Morty” style theories to know or experience everything before deciding. Unfortunately, people have not invented the machine to translate fascinating ideas built in a fantasy world to the real world yet! So, every decision we make, the path we take has a cost associated with it. The metaphorical loss of opportunity to do something else or be someone else.
….Voila!! This, my friends, is “Opportunity Cost”. Doing one thing makes us sacrifice the opportunity to do something else.
This or that
A major life hack to consider before choosing an option is to get a hang of what we are losing out by not choosing the option. One of the simplest concepts in social science that is difficult to master and tougher to put to consistent practice. After all, the opportunity cost is a fancy way of saying that you have to make a trade-off –this or that! And who amongst us mere mortals are readily comfortable with such decisions?
Did you know: John Stuart Mill first began the idea of “Opportunity Cost”
Understanding the opportunity cost is a critical factor in making good rational decisions. The moment we analyze all the options at our disposal not only do we make a properly informed decision but also ensure that we significantly minimize the loss of resources in any form (time, money, happiness, peace, and whatnot).
One of the main reasons why it is a tough act to adhere to is that it is completely against our core self. We typically do not prefer to think about the things that we are giving up. Dwelling too much on the choice we might not choose, can easily lead to a sense of apprehension and timidity.
An insatiable depth: man’s need
Hold on…!! How did we even end up in this choice-driven world?🤔
“Man is a bundle of desires.” As we became more civilized, our wants multiply. However, not all of us have the same wants. It depends on multiple facets like our social, economic, or psychological needs.
They say, “A modem man is the product of a long process of evolution which is reflected in his endless and ever-growing wants.” To satisfy these wants, we need resources, and herein lies the cachet. There is only so much resource in the world. We have little but no choice to choose. In principle, the moment we choose, it necessarily means that we give up on something, again a – this or that situation
If we integrate this into our thought process, we will not only make judicious choices but have a clearer perspective on worldly affairs. It is a tool to analyze the simplest of the things like, why your crush decided against a second date with you, or why your friend keeps canceling you. What you bring on to the table must be more than the opportunity cost.
It’s always better to make tough good choices and learn how to live with them rather than making an easy bad choice in blissful ignorance that leads to ruin over time.
Opportunity cost is the fundamental way that enables people to compare alternatives and decide the ‘good’. On forfeiting other possible options, we try to make our life better. Through the lens of opportunity cost, enhance the underlying decision-making process.
~The dream is free…but the journey will cost you something. -John C. Maxwell