Archive for ‘Self Help’

January 13th, 2015

Giving up: The Sunk Cost Fallacy


Depressed woman sitting on stairs

Since it’s a brand new year, I want to talk a little about being a quitter. But I’d rather frame it as change, growth, giving up the old, and embracing the new. It sounds glitzy but really, it still feels like loss, plain and simple. And that’s worth thinking about.

Ever wonder why you don’t let a thing go when you should? Blame it on sunk cost fallacy, a financial term that refers to the tricks your mind plays on you when you are knee deep in an investment and coming up dry in returns. It’s also a psychological tendency, and frankly, a weakness many people have, especially me.

Here’s how it goes. You have just spent $500 on that new opportunity to make a huge return on that crazy-smart investment. Let’s say it’s money to start a new business–you are going to start a business selling vitamin supplements, bear with me here. Now, the first quarter has produced zilch in terms of profits. This was supposed to be your retirement plan here. You can’t give up without a fight. Because you’ve spent that $500, and because your future depends on it, it’s a little hard to admit defeat—even when you find yourself paying another $1,000 to try to make that first $500 matter. No way you’re gonna let it be spent for nothing so you keep investing and you keep spending because if you don’t, then you KNOW you lost that hard earned money.

So now you’re in for $1,500 and still the opportunity is sinking. What do you do? Well of course, you pony up another lump of cash, and then borrow a little more from your mom or dad before you’re finally willing to admit to yourself that now you are broke and maybe this was a really bad idea.

Sound crazy? Not really. You, yes you,  do this way more than you think. Like…when you already paid for that expensive dinner, so you might as well eat every bite even though the serving was huge and you’re trying to lose weight…and you’re starting to feel a little sick. A stock that you purchased for $90 a share suddenly plummets to $35, but you hesitate to sell. You’ve lost too much–no sense in throwing away all hope that it might come back! Whereas if you’d spent $30 on that same stock, you might be eager to sell…NOW.

Apply this to regular life and see if it’s any different. Why do we stay in bad situations? Jobs. Relationships. Friendships. Business partnerships?

Because the cost of giving up seems greater because of the price we already paid, even when it isn’t. We are willing to lose more than we invested when that investment is significant to us. Yes, please step aside so I can throw another five years into a failing enterprise, because don’t you realize I have already given my best years to this thing? The sunk cost fallacy makes you do things that are not good for you–things that will get you in trouble.

Sometimes it’s okay to quit.

It’s just hard to set boundaries on something we believe in–something important to you–even if the best thing we could do is just…stop. There is a time and place for limits. A time for surrender. Not surrender to defeat…but surrender to a power greater than you.

We like to think we are in control of things. But that’s just an illusion. There are times when a greater peace can be had in knowing when to strategically bow out and let God handle it. In those times, the greatest acts of love and growth are found in that moment when we finally surrender control and allow God to handle the details no matter what we stand to lose.

December 5th, 2013

How to be Happy This Christmas: Take The Santa Challenge

light in the dark

Photo by David Lienhard

1. Be Santa. Give. Randomly. Without expectation. It benefits everyone. Studies have shown that when we help others it increases our happiness, improves our health, and even reduces depression and pain. So what are you waiting for? When you’re pushing that empty shopping cart across the parking lot, offer it to the mom who’s lugging the baby carrier. Or offer to take someone else’s empty cart when you’re on your way in the store so they don’t have to put it away. It’s a moment to be kind. Don’t let it pass. Make someone a scarf or a beanie if you have the skills, and say a prayer over each stitch. Maybe the elderly person next door would enjoy some bread, cookies, or having their walkways shoveled. Take some treats, homemade cards, or a box of warm socks to the nursing home that you drive past everyday. Do something anonymous. Serve and love. It changes you inside.

My local newspaper recently ran a special feature. A section full of Christmas lists. But not the kind you’re thinking. These were lists of names of elderly people in residential facilities and children in the foster system. Beside each name they listed one or two items the person wanted for Christmas. They asked for things like pants, a word search book, soap, beads to makes jewelry, a scarf, a small gift card to Walmart. As I read over these names, it really made me tear up. Find your local Soroptimist organization, church or other community Christmas trees, toy drives, Christmas lists, etcetera.


2. Smile and be jolly. Seriously. I’m not kidding. Genuine smiles, not those fake, grimacing ones. Real smiles create happiness. There is scientific proof for this. Smiling readjusts the facial bones and causes your neurotransmitters to release dopamine, which gives you a sense of wellbeing and joy. Best of all it is contagious. I know you might hear stuff like this and think: yeah, whatever. But I actually tried it. I looked people in the eyes and smiled at everyone, everywhere I went, all the time. People smiled back. All that smiling increased my own joy. I noticed more happiness in others. It was suddenly everywhere around me. People I came across looked brighter, kinder, and seeing their smiles induced even more joy in me. It’s a cycle. Try it.

3. Offer every bit of this as a Christmas gift to God. Every action you take, every smile you give, and every bit of love you spread, do so as a gift to God. When you clean your kitchen, cook a meal, complete an assignment at school or a duty at work, or even scrubbing the bathroom, do your best work and take your time. In your thoughts and prayers, intentionally be in the moment and let your best effort turn even the mundane into an opportunity to give back to the ultimate Giver.

Isn’t it ironic that we celebrate the birth of Christ at the time of year when the night is the longest? Christmas is a celebration of light entering a world of darkness. Let it shine brightly through you.

Peace in the Light,