Stop Trying to Get Your Money's Worth

Each morning I read from a daily meditation book. The idea is that it will provide me with something to focus on during my physical meditation. That's not always the case, but that's the general plan. The reading, good or bad, activates my morning routine. A routine allows my brain and body to work more efficiently than it could if I did each individual step of the routine outside of the routine. If that doesn't make sense, revisit one of my very first articles on The Power of Routine. Suffice it to say, the daily meditation reading is important.

I've been reading my current daily meditation book since September. I bought it at a used bookstore for $5. I hate it. It's December. For almost four full months I have read from a book each day that I don't like because I don't want to feel like I wasted $5. Because I don't want to "carelessly" walk away from the investment when maybe hidden in some chapter I haven't read is one gem that will turn this ship around. This logic seems out of alignment with sanity. 

In college, I minored in economics. I loved economics. It wasn't as heady as psychology or as nauseating as accounting. It was philosophical without all the patchouli, scientific without all the beakers. There's a term in economics to describe a cost that has been incurred and cannot be recovered: a sunk cost. The $5 I spent on the daily meditation book is gone; it's a sunk cost. (Yes, I suppose I could resell it back to the used bookstore, but I'm not going to take the time to do that. More on that in a moment.)

Finally this weekend, I said, I've had enough! No more of this book! And I bought a new daily meditation book. 

But the experience of dragging myself through four months of literary disappointment (which, if continued for much longer, was going to jeopardize the entire routine) left me thinking, where else am I doing this in my life? Where am I white knuckling for the sake of getting my proverbial money's worth, or God forbid, to ensure someone else is getting his or her money's worth to my detriment? 

Where in your life are sunk costs slipping further and further into the red?

Let's look at a few basic examples. Have you ever sat through a movie you're not enjoying because you paid $12 to see it? Have you ever interviewed someone longer than needed knowing you weren't going to hire him but not wanting to be obvious in your dismissal? Have you ever volunteered to do something out of guilt or obligation, then resented the activity or the person who asked you to help? The money, time, or energy invested in each of these are sunk costs. G-O-N-E, GONE. Never to be recovered. 

What if you walked out of the movie you weren't enjoying and did something you do enjoy in the hour that just magically reappeared in your day? Wouldn't that be worth more than the $6 that's left of the movie?

What if you cut the interview short, thanked the person for his time and said it's just not a good fit? What if the person now knows exactly where he stands, can move on in his search and you with yours?

What if you said no to that thing you don't want to do? What if you took care of your needs first so that you can ultimately do more for others later?

These don't have to be what ifs. They can be things that are.

People can be sunk costs. Relationships can be sunk costs. Jobs can be sunk costs. Boring books (or reselling books) can be sunk costs. Instead of death gripping through these experiences, say uncle. Cut your losses, whether it's a $5 book or a dying-on-the-vine relationship. Spend that money, time, or energy elsewhere, putting it towards something that makes you happy or feels good.

I'm not advocating for a cost-benefit analysis of every decision in our lives. But I am aligned with eliminating the sunk costs. Stop trying to get your money's worth. The value is in seeing what isn't worth it and doing something else instead! Our money, time, and energy are valuable commodities. We owe it to ourselves to treat them as such.