Reality Check: The Reality of Tradeoffs

Choices often require tradeoffs—we give up one thing to have another. We do this so frequently that we’re often not aware of it.
For example, if you’ve driven around today, then you made a tradeoff. You traded off the safety of staying off the road for the benefit of getting where you wanted to go. Most of the time, we don’t think about it—if we need to go somewhere, we just do it. However, when a wild blizzard is blowing over icy roads, the tradeoff is more likely to pop up. “Do I need to go out in this? Is it worth it?”
The “Is it worth it?” part is where you’re analyzing the tradeoff. Do you want to give up the safety of staying inside for the benefits of going out?
Money is another area where tradeoffs are common. Because it’s tangible; we can see it, then we can also see when we don’t have it. Money tradeoffs often come down to, “I can have this or I can have that, but I can’t have both. Which will I choose?” Recognizing the tradeoff might not make the decision easier, but at least we’re aware of the compromise.
Other tradeoffs are not so visible, such as our use of time. When we spend time on one activity, then we are not spending it on another. If you’ve ever worked in an industry where customers are billed for time, then you have a solid understanding of its value. Time is, effectively, money.
However, if accounting for your time is not in your mindset, then you might find it odd to look at your time as a commodity subject to tradeoffs. It may even strike you as selfish. If you wish to be a kind and helpful person, should you not give unselfishly of your time?
Perhaps so. However, demands on our time can be infinite and our time is not. No matter how unselfish we are, we cannot respond to all as we might like to. Thus, the effective tradeoff involves answering the question, “Is this the best use of my time?”
Taking a few minutes to look at time-tradeoffs could be worthwhile from two perspectives. First—it may help you choose wisely among all of those competing demands. Second—it may help you realistically address any guilt you have about not doing everything you would like to do.
Finally, there are tradeoffs involved in our relationships. As it’s the time of year when many people like to get together, I’ll look at the following tradeoff.
For some, the habits of isolation developed over the past years have become well-entrenched. Staying in isolation can feel safer, and if you haven’t been getting out and about, it’s hard to get into the spirit of being with people, even people you love.
But there is a downside to not connecting with people. We have a need for survival, which may motivate us to isolate. We also have a need for love & belonging. Those needs can conflict.
I don’t know what’s best for you, but I do have a hope for you—that by recognizing the need for tradeoffs, you’re better able to make your choices without guilt or anger.
What tradeoffs do you make?

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