Reality Check: The Joy:Cost Ratio

There’s a little guy who occasionally passes by my office door. Whenever he does, he exclaims, “I’ve got my thinking cat on!”
It’s adorable. No matter how busy or stressed or distracted I am, I get pure joy for those few seconds when he’s out there.
Here’s the context. Our building has a daycare; thus little people occasionally pass by my office. On the bulletin board outside my office, I have a picture of a sad-looking dog with a cat sitting on his head. The caption: I’ve got my thinking cat on. You probably have to see it to fully appreciate it.
One day, the wonderful worker who was shepherding the kids read the caption to them. Ever since then, he pipes up with the phrase whenever he passes by.
I’m not sure why that brings me so much joy. While I find adults highly entertaining; I generally don’t see children as a source of fun. Different people satisfy their need for fun in different ways, and mine is not generally kid-oriented.
But there’s something about the excitement, absurdity and predictability of the little fella’s enthusiastic delivery of this ridiculous statement that invariably brings me joy.
If you like numbers, then you’ve probably heard the term, “benefit to cost ratio.” It’s a way that can help you figure out whether an activity is worthwhile.
For example, you consider taking a course. Among the costs are tuition and the time you’ll need to devote. The benefits may be improving your job prospects, meeting new people, and gaining a better understanding of the subject.
When deciding whether to enroll in the course, you weigh the costs and the benefits. The ultimate question, “Is it worth it?”
While the benefit to cost ratio is often associated with money, not everything is measured in dollars, is it?
Cost isn’t necessarily a monetary cost. There are many costs: time, physical energy, and emotional energy. If you’ve ever spent much time with someone who is attempting to “make” you feel bad, by berating, resenting, or guilting you, then you know that even though no one can make you feel those, the experience can still take a toll on you. It brings a cost. Considering the joy to cost ratio can be a way to get a clearer perspective on the relationship.
Likewise, many joys are unrelated to money, too. Think of the joy that comes from being with someone who genuinely cares for you. Or remember the satisfaction you’ve had after accomplishing a task you weren’t sure you could do. That’s joy!
Some very low cost things bring great joy. Others, at high cost, may not bring much joy at all.
Often, we think of joyous occasions as being one-time events or big, expensive events. That once-in-a-lifetime trip, for example, may well bring joy. However, it is by definition, once-in-a-lifetime. It’s difficult to perceive that one has a satisfying, joy-filled life if the criteria for joy hinges on once-in-a-lifetime events.
This isn’t to discount the joy that we get from these events. If you have a bucket list full of effortful or elaborate events and checking them off brings you joy, fill your boots.
The suggestion here is simple: don’t discount the tiny things that bring us joy. Just because they are freely given or easily obtained doesn’t make them less valuable. Pay attention to them. Fully live them. Enjoy them.
The little guy’s “thinking cat” comes with no cost to me. It brings me noticeable joy; thus it has a huge joy:cost ratio.
Many tiny joys come at low or no-cost. A walk in the fresh air, petting a beagle, or an unexpected smile can all bring joy.
What brings you joy? Does it come with high costs? Or low costs?

This entry was posted in Choosing Perspective and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.