A few more random thoughts on The Sunk Cost Fallacy that didn't seem to fit in anywhere else:
Trying to avoid the Sunk Cost Fallacy doesn't mean you don't put any time into anything. There can be a lot of joy in learning to master a game or a sport or an academic subject. Mastery takes time as well as effort.
What it addresses is: what do you do when that time and effort are no longer giving you any returns? When it's not fun anymore? When you're continuing to do something long after you'd gotten what you wanted, or indeed, stopped getting anything at all from it?
That's where the emotional attachment of all that time and effort you already put in comes in. You feel you should stick with it because you have stuck with it. And maybe sometimes you should. Maybe sometimes this is a slump. Or something else outside of this game/sport/subject is affecting how you see everything. We humans are like that. Maybe sometimes hanging on because things are likely to change is the right thing to do.
But not always. It's not always cut and dried - in fact, I'd wager it's fuzzier than not most of the time. Who among us hasn't been in the dead end relationship/friendship, where things aren't horribly wrong, but they're not good, but you've already been with this person for so long that you feel you should keep trying, except trying isn't making things any better. Where do you draw the line and say "ok, enough, this isn't working anymore."? It's not easy. There's a lot of second guessing involved.
The time and effort you've spent - and whatever you've received for that - is water under the bridge. You can't change it. All you can change is the time and effort you put in moving forward - and try to evaluate fairly what you're getting for that new time and effort in the way of new rewards. Which is also not easy, because we see through the rose-colored glasses of past rewards.
Or, in short, "what have you done for me lately?"
I also disagree with the garage sale line of the original article, that "Every garage sale is a funeral for someone’s sunk costs.". What this fails to take into account is changing needs and interests.
Yes, getting rid of stuff you no longer need or want is the last attempt at recovering value out of what is now useless to you. But the question is why you accumulated all that stuff - is it because you needed it for something you wanted to do? Like a sport or a hobby? Or because your life changed - like you had a baby? Or did you keep buying Beanie Babies even after you realized that no, you were not going to be able to send your kid to college on them, because you already had 10 gazillion and you felt compelled to keep adding to the collection even though you don't like any of the new ones?
Sunk cost is the latter - or keeping the all baby stuff even though it means buying a bigger house or renting extra storage even though you know you're not having more kids because the stuff cost so much and you have all those memories of your kids barfing on it. It's making decisions that are not optimal for today based on the emotions of the decisions you made previously. So not every garage sale fits the bill - some do, some don't.
As you might have guessed, I'm doing a LOT of re-evaluation of Gaia as it stands today. I'm not going to say it hasn't brought me a great deal of fun and pleasure in the past, but right now, things are different. Being aware of the pull of the past is just one more tool in the arsenal for making better decisions for myself going forward.
· Fri Sep 21, 2012 @ 08:12pm · 0 Comments