We drove from Arizona to California for a week-long vacation. We had planned to spend two days at an amusement park before moving onto a beach cottage we had reserved. My son has always had trouble with his ears beginning with ear tubes when he was a baby. He suffered badly with motion sickness after one of the first rides of the day. We made the best of the day but did not return for the second day. Thank goodness for phones with internet. We came up with wonderful things to do and had a great time.
Behavioral economists would say we were behaving rationally according to a term known as “sunk cost”. We had already paid for the tickets, and would never be able to recover that cost. Did we want to pay twice by doing something that we know wasn’t going to be fun? Life Hack lists other fallacies like this, which we tend to fall for- like eating too much at a restaurant just because we paid for the food. Robert L. Leahy Ph.D., in Psychology Today, has a great article on how to let go of sunk costs. He says our decisions shouldn’t be made looking backward, only forward. If we would have said, “But we paid for two days, we have to go both days.” We would have had a miserable time. Instead, we visited the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum. It was a Tuesday, which happens to be free admission day, so it didn’t cost us anything additional.
We might be better off if we can think of our wealth not in terms of money or possessions, but in terms of people and time. What is the best decision going forward for the people involved? Is that how you want to spend your time? The first question tends to be more muddled for me. Sometimes the answer isn’t as straightforward as I would like. The second question is the tie-breaker. It can help to keep looking forward in our decision-making and not backward. For it does not matter how much we have paid for something or have vested in a relationship, if it isn’t working for our future there is no sense in paying twice.
How will you spend your time?