Monday, January 23, 2012

Time value of... everything?

"Opportunity cost is the cost of any activity measured in terms of the value of the next best alternative foregone (that is not chosen). It is the sacrifice related to the second best choice available to someone, or group, who has picked among several mutually exclusive choices."  (wikipedia)

Opportunity cost is such a strange concept.  It's the driving factor behind every choice ever made.  However mundane or extravagant the choice, before you decide anything you (often subconsciously) ask yourself is it worth it?  Will the end result of my decision be enough to offset the time/effort/money/energy/emotion/risk it costs to achieve?  Interestingly enough, monetary cost is not often the dealbreaker in my decisions (not that I'm a big spender, I just don't consider expensive things as choices in the first place!).  I don't know about everyone else, but I catch myself having internal arguments over the silliest things:
  • I'm starving.  But the food is waaaaay over there, and I'm so comfortable.  Is it worth it to lose the warm spot on the couch to go satisfy my growling stomach?  Nope, I'll just turn up the music and ignore it so I can stay warm.  Why haven't I mastered the power of "the force" yet to will things to come to me?
  • My potential hobbies/talents are staring me in the face.  Sewing, watercolor painting, reading, my independent study course, running, guitar, writing in the blog, crocheting, cooking... basically I want my life to be a real-life pinterest stream.  But which do I pick?  What is the cost of what I'll miss out on if I choose one thing over another?
  • Is the risk of people being able to smell me from a distance worth the time I save in not showering tonight?  I just won't get close to people tomorrow, and I'm soooo tired... (kidding on that one.  sort of.)
  • (pretending I am Wikipedia)  Is the cost of shutting down my money-making website for an entire 24-hour span worth creating buzz to let Congress know I'm meaner and have much more influence than they'd like to admit?)
  • This or that boy is cute and can speak in full sentences.  Is the potential risk (is that a doubly-repetitive phrase?  Because "doubly-repetitive" sure is) of time wasted/money spent/girlish confusion/bridge burning/devastating heartbreak offset by the butterflies and rainbows and puppies and babies that could result from going on a date with him?  Obviously no babies the first date.  Just had to clarify that point.  
Point is, opportunity cost isn't a new concept, or even a particularly outlandish one.  Just a fascinating one, once you start thinking about it.  Every person is constantly calculating and re-evaluating the cost vs. benefit of every decision they'll ever make, and perpetually renewing and adjusting a priority-driven individualized scale on which they judge the worth of one "thing" compared to the sacrified benefit of every other "thing"... as if you could literally assign a dollar value to a minute, or to a "unit" of experience.  Holy cow.


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