In introductory Economics courses, one of the first things you learn about is the notion of “opportunity costs.” Basically the idea is that because we can’t be in two places at once doing two different things at once, there will always be sacrifices made when we settle on, say, opening a dental practice in Washington State.
Once you commit to that occupation in that location, a great many other options are no longer available to you. For instance, if you’re pulling rotten teeth out of people’s maxillas all the live long day in Tacoma, you’re forgoing potential work as a heroin dealer in Topeka, Kansas, or as a mercenary with whatever Blackwater is calling itself these days, or as a guide with the National Park Service.
The takeaway, of course, is that you should have these alternative realities in mind when you make economic decisions, so you can pick the best possible future for yourself.
While I tend to feel that Microeconomics 101 dominates too much of our thoughts, words and deeds, I very much like the lesson of opportunity costs. It makes us more aware of the fact that we are finite beings with finite resources, resources that must be allocated with a great deal of care.
Time, Energy And Attention
Now, I could care less about making prudent financial decisions. The resources I’m concerned with allocating well are time, energy and attention. We’ve only got so much of each, which means every minute detail of our lives is all about navigating bifurcating paths — eithers and ors.
Whether or not we live well (however one might define this) will be a function of how much we reflect on the hidden “price” of this choice or that
Take the activity you’ve chosen to engage in at the present moment — namely, reading. I’m extremely flattered and honored and so very thankful you’ve decided to consider my words, but have you weighed other options for this block of time?
Look Around You
When you look out the window, is there enough blue sky for a walk in the woods? Are there loved ones around you might chat and have a laugh with? Have you cooked an elaborate dinner lately?
Any of these would likely confer many more benefits than pouring over this gibberish. (Again, I’m very thankful to have your eyes, but one of my main objectives with this project is to encourage folks to get out and experience the world for themselves. You’ll understand if I can’t help but include an appeal for you to at least consider doing something more exciting than lounging around scanning text.)
Occasionally, however, the weather is wretched or you’re too fatigued or sick to do much else, or you haven’t had time to decompress in a while. Then maybe — just maybe — your opportunity costs are low enough to click through these pages.
(Today’s photo — of Mount Timpanogos — comes from Natalie Rae Good’s Tumblr.)