Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Opportunity Costs

You may not realize it, but there is a cost associated with everything you do.  I am not talking about money here, although many times our decisions do involve dollars and cents. No, I am referring to opportunity costs - those things we give up when we make a decision. Each and every choice we make costs us something we are NOT doing.

In terms of our budgets, the decision to buy a car likely means we cut back on eating out, trips to the movie theater, or a family vacation.  Those are all costs of buying a car, in addition to the amount you are paying your bank or a dealership.

But, while financial decisions are concrete examples of costs that hit our wallets, there's a resource far more valuable in terms of opportunity costs: time.  When we choose to spend our time one way, we relinquish our ability to spend it another way. And that means the stakes are high.  Sometimes we can earn or make the money back that we spend.  But, we cannot get the time back.
  • When you choose to spend an hour browsing the internet, what are you giving up?
  • When you live on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare, etc - what are you surrendering?
  • When you watch Judge Judy, Days of Our Lives, Dr. Phil, and Ellen each day, what are you missing out on?
Conversely, there are also costs associated with our supposed "wise" choices in life:
  • When you go on a four-mile hike, you may sweat, ache, and burn - you are giving up relaxation.
  • When you serve at a concession stand at a high school football game, you are allowing parents watch their kids play...but there are other things you could be doing - Friday night movie? A night out with the boys? A date night with your wife?
  • When you coach your son or daughter's team, you are pouring into kids who need positive influences in their lives.  But, you are sacrificing some things as well - sitting on the sidelines as a fan, not having to worry about lineup cards, dealing with umpires/officials, planning for practices and games.
Generally speaking, I don't believe people weigh their choices.  Most times we just fly by the seat of our pants.  We are not intentional.  We make choices in the moment, rather than contemplating the possible ramifications of our decisions.  And, in the end, most of us just wind up doing what appeals to us the most.  Meanwhile, we surrender our ability to make calculated investments in the lives of those we love the most.

So, here's the question:  What is greater - the rewards you receive for the small sacrifices you make, or the potential you've squandered by chasing things that matter little?

Everything has a cost.  You just may never see it until it's too late.

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