Making decisions is all about opportunity costs. For instance, every time you spend money to get something, you should ask yourself what else, perhaps of better value, you could get with that money—now or later.
The problem is, when forced to choose between something immediate and concrete and something else that’s comparatively abstract and distant, the opportunity cost could lack clarity.
Duke University behavioral economist Dan Ariely proposes the notion of “anti-goals” to help examine the trade-offs you’re forced to make. Ariely encourages pairing goals such that if you satisfy one, you’ll impede the other. For example, when choosing to spend $100 on an evening out today, you can consider a tangible anti-goal—say, saving for the family’s summer vacation—that’ll be held back.
Idea for Impact: Thinking about what you want to avoid—the anti-goal—is a potent tool. It allows you to focus on things that really matter.