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Archive for August 8th, 2019

One of the concepts I always had difficulties getting across to undergraduates was the idea of opportunity costs — not how expensive something was in cash terms, but “If you are doing X, you are not doing Y.  What are the consequences or losses associated with not doing Y?”  Not everyone is immediately skilled at shifting between foreground and background, or positive/negative space.

Not doing “Y” could be any number of things.  Not clearing a desk. Not mowing the lawn.  Not paying attention to the news.  Not acting on what you know. All of these things have consequences, and some of those are less trivial than others.

Sometimes there are reasons you can connect the not-done actions to larger things, but not always. Not thinking about retirement because the world is on fire.  Not relaxing in a quiet moment because you’re already contrasting it with the chaos that seems just beyond the next news cycle. Not replacing worn linoleum because you don’t want to know what’s under there. Not discarding an old T-shirt because you’re still amused that it lasted longer than the job where you got it.

“Why are we focusing on what we aren’t doing?” demands a student. “What good is it to spend time listing out all the things we might be doing instead?”

“Because it reminds us that what we are doing is a choice.  It reminds us that there might be other options.  There might be a different way…”

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