Recently, I have been thinking about the concept of sunk costs as I pondered why it is hard to ‘move on’ and to try something new. I often think about sunk costs when waiting for something or someone especially when I have somewhere else to go next – do I continue to wait or leave? If I arrived now, would I stay around and wait or leave and come back another time? The time I have spent waiting in gone, I can’t get it back, so do I keep waiting or leave.
I started to play with the idea of sunk costs, wondering if it would help if I treated my life up to this point as a sunk cost – stuff that has happened, paid for, and done – I can’t go back and change it, but also it doesn’t need to limit what I do now i.e., I can make a different choice today than yesterday. If I graduated from high school today, what would I do now? What would I study? What type of job would I seek? Would I start my business? Etc. For me, it helped free my mind up from thinking that I must use the ‘investments’ I’ve made in education, in work, in life, etc. otherwise I am ‘wasting’ them. Then it struck me, why do I think of it a ‘wasteful’, what if everything I did before was simply a ‘sunk costs’ – not good or bad, just a sunk cost; time and resources I can’t get back, but also that I have choice about ‘needing’ to use them.
A few days later, Seth Godin spoke of the same thing on his weekly Akimbo, but being that is Seth, he was much more eloquently than I. He was also much kinder and generous in what he said. I like the fact that he talks about it as a ‘gift from your past self’; I love that, a gift! A gift that you can choose to receive or choose not to take it – with no judgment necessary either. Gracious. Generous. Kind.
So we can choose. There are no have to’s. Be kind and generous to yourself.