Stop suffering in the future because of costs already incurred in the past
6 months ago, 30 Dec 22:52
It’s the last day of the year — always a good time to reflect on the months that went before. We all do this: we look back, we reminisce, we try to learn from the past. Except, most of us just don’t. We let the past enslave us, not teach us lessons for the future. You don’t believe me? Try your hand at the following conundrums. You’ve just started watching a long movie at the theatre. Twenty or so minutes in, you realise this particular film is already very tedious, not to your liking at all. But you’ve paid for the ticket, and it was pricey. There are still more than two hours to go. Do you stick it out, hoping it gets better? Or walk out now? You’ve been in a close relationship for a long time. It gave you great happiness in the early days. These days, however, your partner has turned abusive and is often unpleasant. MOVE ON You sometimes wonder whether you should move on. But you’ve been together a long time. You’ve invested. You have great memories. You can’t just walk away, can you? Your country folk have a revered old leader. This person has fought for the nation, made sacrifices for all of you. You all feel you owe this leader, big. As the boss ages, though, you’re feeling a little queasy. He’s making mistakes, missing a few tricks, losing concentration. Perhaps it’s time to think of a future without the venerable old fellow? But that would be deeply ungrateful. He’s done so much for everyone. Let nature take its course, no? For most people these are not conundrums at all. Most people would keep watching the movie; would stick out the relationship; would not do anything to unseat the long-standing leader. FALLACY This is because most of us suffer from the sunk cost fallacy. Once we have invested — time or money — in something, we become chained to it. The more invested we feel in something, the harder it is to abandon it, even when all rational evidence suggests we should. This is because we allow our decisions about the future to be guided by costs we have incurred in the past. Actually, we should be putting the past behind us and considering the future on its own merits — the costs and benefits yet to come. And the way to do that is to ask yourself this: what would I do if I had not incurred any past costs in this matter? Would you watch the movie knowing what you now know, had you not paid for it? Would you begin your relationship knowing what you now know about your partner? Would you vote for the old leader on his merits today if he were standing for election for the first time? BAD MEALS If the answers are all no, then you know what you have to do. Stop suffering in the future because of costs already incurred in the past. ...
Category: oped opinion