Time is limited. There is no way to get more of it. Although you can get more out of it.
There is the word opportunity cost in Economics. This term basically explains that when you choose one option, you are sacrificing your second favorite choice to do so. For example, when you decide to spend time mindlessly scrolling through Instagram before bed, you cannot spend time that on spending quality time with your partner. This is the cost of choosing to do one thing over another.
The more options you have, the cost seems to be greater. This is why it is important to pay attention to what you are giving up and if it is worth it. We all need to make sacrifices in life. You can’t do everything. You can just make sure you prioritize the things that you want to do.
Every hour we are making tiny choices. If you add up all the hours of your life, you will come to know if your sacrifice is worth the effort or not.
The Food Court dilemma
Opportunity cost of the same choice is different in different situations. My level of satisfaction is different when I choose to eat McDonalds from a food court as compared to going to the McDonalds across the street from my place.
Usually when I reach a food court, I go look at the menu at McDonalds first. Then I take a full round around the food court, browse through all the menus and then come back next to McDonalds. Even after I order, I look around one last time and then spot something else which would have been my second favorite place. This is generally Popeyes. I look through Popeyes Menu again and decide in my head that the next time I come here, I will order Popeyes. This happens every time and most of the time I order the same thing from McDonalds and never end u going to Popeyes.
The more choices are in front of us, the more confused we get. Our brains are too primitive in that sense. Thousand years back, if we didn’t choose to eat whatever we got that particular day, there was a good chance you will go hungry for a few days. Our brains still think on those lines even today. When it sees food in all directions, the first thought is “What am I missing out on?”
The problem with our mind is that sometimes it does not understand why we chose one thing over another. This is why you sometimes make plans in your head on where to eat the next time you come into the food court. You are convincing a part of you that you will get a chance to change your choice next time.
Opportunity cost of snoozing your alarm
Everyday, I keep my alarm at 5 AM in the morning. Before working, I like to get some exercise done and get some time to meditate and prepare for the day before anyone else gets a chance to disrupt my thoughts.
Although, I know all this, I love snoozing my alarm. Even though, I know I am the most creative and productive in the morning. Here the choice is not really waking up at 5 AM over sleeping. The actual choice is productivity over the comfort of your bed.
It is understanding what the cost of snoozing your alarm is as compared to getting up when you want to. One is a conscious decision, while, the other is a decision taken by your phone.
Choosing to snooze is not necessarily a bad choice. But as long as you are conscious of the opportunity cost, there will be an automatic increase in discipline and will power in you. Mindless will power is hard. We need to give our body and mind a chance to help us out to get what we need out of life.
Thinking about the secondary consequence of an action
On a Monday at lunch time, you walk into McDonalds and order one of those delicious Big Mac combos. You make sure that you replace the fountain drink for a chocolate milkshake (just in case you don’t feel completely satisfied with just a fountain drink).
The primary consequence of your action is to make yourself feel good after being very productive in the morning. From that logic, this is totally understandable. But, the secondary consequence of your action is that you need to eat broccoli for lunch for 2 weeks to simply get back to the condition you were in before deciding to enter McDonalds.
So, always think why you are doing something. Then think about why is that reason important to you. Delayed gratification is more acceptable once you use this principle in your life.
Generally when you do the right things the first feeling is not great. For example, if you are eating a healthy lunch today, the first feeling is I don’t like this stuff. But, if you take the time to think, why you need to do this, you will know it is because doing this will make you love the way you feel for the rest of the day.
How to not regret what you are sacrificing
Planning the why behind your actions will allow you to have less regret. Sacrifices are inevitable and there is certainly a feeling of regret from time to time. Allow yourself to go through that process. Do not try to stop it.
Because the more you allow yourself to think about it, the more you will be able to understand how your mind works. Just like understanding your lover or your friend, you need to understand how you work. What motivates you and the reason that motivates you. You don’t know unless you try to understand yourself by having an active conversation without judgement. If you have never connected with yourself in this level, this will get some getting used to. It’s like talking to someone after a long break. There is so much to say and it’s overwhelming.
When you choose one path over another, you are sacrificing the choice you did not make. We need to either make our choices carefully or choose what we want to sacrifice carefully. You cannot balance everything with absolute perfection. Others might look like they are doing it well. But, don’t judge a book by its cover.