Cost vs. Benefit Analysis

I will never write a self-help book on parenting. I made plenty of mistakes over the years and never professed to be a near perfect parent. For instance, I never was able to teach my kids to make good decisions every time. My father couldn’t teach that to me, and I couldn’t teach it to my kids.  Two universal truths are that no parent can teach their kids to make good decisions 100% of the time, and every parent wishes they could teach their kids to make good decisions 100% of the time. It is sort of the ying and yang of parenting. There are a few lessons, however, I wish I had done a better job teaching:

First, play life like a game of chess. Think a few moves ahead. Consider all the possible outcomes of anything you do and have contingencies planned for each. Second, when faced with a decision play it out in your head and if there is a good chance it will bring you either regret or guilt, don’t do it. Just don’t do it. And third, cost vs. benefit analysis.

Cost vs. benefit analysis sounds complicated, even mathematical. But it really is so simple that we do it every day and don’t even realize it. However, in truth we should learn to do it with every decision we make. The concept is simple… nothing is free. This is what I want my children to learn:

Every choice you have has a cost and a benefit associated with it. Sometimes the cost is material, such as money or items you own or make. Sometimes it is intangible, such as time or stress or physical labor. Benefits are the same. Other than the obvious material assets, benefits might include boosts to your self-esteem, less stress, or free time. Once you identify the costs and benefits associated with your choices, then comes the hard part. You must decide if the benefits outweigh the cost. This will, of course, depend on the value you place on the things you lose and gain with each decision. While this will not keep you from making some bad decisions (nothing will prevent that) it will assure that you make more good decisions than bad. In the end you will be more confident in the choices you make and suffer from fewer regrets.


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