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How are you spending the seconds of your life?

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Economics has a reputation for not dealing with real people or nuances like emotion and relationships.

But there is one economic concept that can help us in our personal lives: opportunity cost.


Here's the basic idea:  You have a limited number of seconds in a life. In your life.  Each is worth something. Are you getting the maximum outcome for the investment of the seconds of your life?

In economics, this doesn't mean that you have to be earning the maximum amount of money every second. You may be earning at a lower potential - or even spending money - in order to maximize your earnings later. The classic example is going to a trade school or college.  You spend money up front so that you can earn more later.

Likewise, in a relationship you may spend time up front having hard conversations or tackling difficult topics. The goal there is that later on you get a return on the investment of your time by being a better person, avoiding unnecessary conflict, and having a better relationship.

Opportunity cost is a useful way to think about things to ensure that you aren't stuck.

For example, I know a young woman (see my privacy policy) who is trying to pay off a large debt. She is currently working a minimum-wage job and spending the rest of her time doing odd jobs for a family member for minimal payment.

It did not occur to her that she could spend some time learning an additional skill - perhaps getting some kind of verification or certificate - instead of doing the odd jobs so that she would be able to earn more money and be able to pay off her debt sooner.

In relationships this also relates to the fuck yes idea, or how I wrote last week about how obligation is a horrible reason to stay in a relationship.

You have a limited number of seconds in your life. Is the relationship(s) you're in now the way you want them to be? Are they growing towards what you want them to be? Are they improving?

Look, there is nothing inherently wrong with being in a minimum wage job.... If you choose it intentionally and it meets your needs. Likewise, there's not anything inherently wrong with your relationship as long as you choose it intentionally and it meets your needs.

If your job or relationship is not the best way you could be spending the seconds of your life, then you have an obligation to yourself.  You have an obligation to either improve your job or relationship... or find a new one.

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