Costs and Benefits of Change

Change requires investment. Today I want to talk about the different types of costs we face when we look to make change in our lives and how we can compare these to the benefits we might accrue from making change.

MONEY. It’s the most obvious cost we pay for change and the feasibility of making a particular change is easily quantifiable in this area. For example, last year I wanted to be better about my finances so I paid for YNAB, a budgeting app. The price for the app is currently $6.99/month, but I know I’ve saved a lot more than that by using it so it’s a worthwhile investment. I’d love to solve my current cleaning dilemma by hiring a professional, but thanks to YNAB I know this isn’t feasible monetarily right now. So instead I paid a one time fee for a cleaning app, and I’m prepared to invest my own…

TIME. It’s such a finite resource when you get down to it. So any change you’re looking to make, you have to ask yourself if it’s worthwhile enough to invest your time. Keep in mind many changes require a lot of time up front to plan, learn a new skill, etc., but the time costs sink dramatically once you’ve acquired the skill and the change becomes routine. For example, when David and I moved in together, we spent a lot of time learning how to cook by watching food shows, making recipes from cookbooks, and going to one awesome class on sausage and bacon making in San Francisco. We’re no longer as “into food” as we were when we lived in the Bay Area, but we can easily pull together a nice dinner now because we invested that time long ago.

SOCIAL. There are a lot of elements to this with the most obvious cost being that change might mean disassociating with certain people in your life. Perhaps they’re not supportive of the change you’re making or your new routine doesn’t allow you to spend time doing the social activities you engaged in with them. Remember, though, change can also bring new people into your life and improve your current relationships. For instance, I’d say that gaining a better understanding of our finances over the past year has improved my marriage by 3%. I’m hopeful establishing a better cleaning routine results in another 3% improvement this year.

OTHER OPPORTUNITIES. Choosing to make a change in one particular area can leave us without enough money, time, energy, etc. to make changes in other areas. An easy example–I love taking classes, but there are only so many classes I can afford and have time to take. I have to consider what’s most important for me right now. Is it becoming a better on camera actor? Learning to rock climb? Improving my photography skills? Being clear on what change you’re making and what changes you’ll have to forgo for the time being can help focus your efforts and make success more likely.

EMOTIONAL. I’ve saved this variable for last because it’s complicated, difficult to quantify, and the cost I find most overwhelming when I’m looking to make change. The challenge I’m trying to take on this year is a perfect example. I have so much baggage around cleaning that engaging in it involves not only physical labor on my part but emotional labor as well. When I go to clean my tub, I’m not just cleaning the tub–I’m confronting past decisions and fears. It’s exhausting, and in the past, the mental toll has felt like too much. But now, building on success in other areas, I’m hopeful I can take my cleaning from sporadic and driven by necessity to routine. And I’m hopeful that by engaging with it more cleaning will become less emotionally taxing for me.

To summarize, when you’re looking to make a change it’s important to ask yourself these questions:

  1. How much will this change cost monetarily? How does this monetary cost compare to the anticipated gains?
  2. What time investment is required to make this change? Will making this investment save me time later on once I’ve acquired the skill, made this a habit, etc.?
  3. How will this change affect my relationships? Will I lose touch with certain people? Will new people come into my life? Will making this change improve my relationships?
  4. By choosing to make this change, what other changes will I not be able to make? Is this change more important to me than those changes?
  5. Am I emotionally ready to make this change? If not, are there other changes that I can make that will help me prepare for this change? How will I emotionally benefit from this change?

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