The Tradeoff Science

24th December 2022 | Reading time: 7 min
By Rakesh Singh

Source : pexels


ur life is all about the tradeoffs we make each day. The word 'tradeoff' means you have two choices of something or two ways to go or two possible actions to take. But, here's the catch, unfortunately, you can only choose one of them because they are mutually exclusive and both the options have their unique set of rewards and consequences in future. At this point of time, you're doing a tradeoff by selecting one over the other. That is, getting the benefits of one option by missing out that of another option. More clearly, making one choice means loosing something else, which we do almost everyday.

In my adolescent years, I used to think that I can go all out in my career, have fulfilling relationships, travel on a regular basis, keep up the habit of reading and writing, browsing social media, get out of all the unnecessary debt and stay in shape too. But the end result is always a total meltdown.

Even after so many years past this point, you are not immune. We all are continuously dealing with the choices on where and how to invest our resources, i.e time, money and energy, and still we all can be guilty of the same thing. But where problem occurs most of the time? The problem is a misunderstanding of the importance of tradeoffs.

Economics is all about nothing but the tradeoffs. A tradeoff is loosely defined as any situation where making a choice means loosing something else. Economic theory also offers you a study which helps us the way we allocate our resources and negotiate the opportunity costs. It also offer tools that we can use as guides for getting what we want out of life if we apply the lessons to our every resources other than money. We all know that our money isn't infinite and yet we end up treating our time and energy like it is. Most people act as if they never came across a tradeoff in their lives - we can get anything if we just try hard enough. But the irony is that those who know and understand the underlying benefits of a tradeoff can get much more out of life than those who don't understand.

Its not that we can't get more out of our investments, but by staying within the limitations; we can be more efficient in certain areas. We can choose to focus on one area for while and then switch to another. We can have myriad of smart ways to achieve more. Its our own society that sells us the completely false belief that we can become whoever we want to be, can get whatever we want. But blindly trying to overstuff our days and stretching our minds to their limits is foolish. Sometimes, rather than having more and more, we should focus on having less.

The greatest fact is, whenever you're trying to get everything right, you aren't getting anything right.

Whenever we look at other people, we usually get the impression that they are managing to do everything. They look amazing, they are fantastic parents, their relationship are novel-worthy, they have a decent paycheck, they travel periodically, they feel good all the time and what not. But the fact is far from what we see. We don't see their hidden invincible tradeoff they are making. Remember, no one has everything.

Tradeoffs can take a while to become apparent and sometimes they only show up in the long run. Everyone has to make sacrifices to be able to invest in what matters to them the most. Even people with unique and world-class math abilities are often socially clueless, and many parents give up their career advancement to raise their kids. Tradeoffs really teaches us how to be great at few things by loosing a few things. And sometimes, you even have to accept being a mediocre.

There are no solutions. There are only trade-offs.

~ Thomas Sowell

Tradeoff isn't easy and that's why, I think, we try to avoid them. But that's never been a solution. Ignorance can never resolve any of our issues. It's not always good enough to consider whatever we gain from going for option B over option A. We should also take into account what we lose.

TIME. The biggest fundamental constraint we have. If you use an hour over a piece of work, you can't use it for anything else. It just passes on. Like whatever the time I take in crafting and curating the article, I can't use it to do something else. We divide up our time by putting the work with highest priority at the top and the work with lowest priority at the bottom. That's how we split up our twenty-four hours each day. Maybe, for me, writing comes over anything else. It seems worthwhile to figure out the tasks with the lowest opportunity cost. One of the best way to do is to establish how you would like to be using your time and keep tracking it down for a week and for a month; which many people saw a significant discrepancy in between. Moreover, the value of tradeoff in time utilization is a great way to cut off the unwanted, unhelpful and unproductive behaviours and habits. Of course, you will never manage to get rid of the things that has low value to us but you can keep cutting it back. It is one thing to tell yourself that you're not going to spend half an hour browsing social media before the morning walk. And its another thing to plan how you would be using that time instead.

And if you think that being a multi-tasker could be a solution to get more things done at once is like putting each foot in a two different boat. In such case, you aren't doing any one thing particularly well. If you're replying to the text messages and emails while you're out for a dinner with your family and friends, you're not focusing completely even at one thing. By doing so, the people you're out with may feel unimportant. Your emails are banal.

Its all in our hand. Our time, our priority, our work and the tradeoff.

In order to take tradeoffs into account, you need to be able to let go of the things you're not great at. Like, if you give highest priority to physical fitness or workout over entertainment, you need to accept that other people will mock you up about not being aware of what's happening around the world. If you prioritize your career over maintaining your friendship you've ever had, you need to get over the pang of hurt when other people stop inviting you out.

Conclusion: The key takeaway is that, if we think we can have it all without making any tradeoffs, we are more likely to end up with nothing at all. Each of the myriad decision we make holds an opportunity cost and that's why we must actively decide what's beneficial to us. We can get farther if we choose to make tradeoffs we want to make and we'll end up with far more satisfying choices.

Tagged : Decision MakingThinking

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