Trade-off

I was walking to class one morning last week, thinking about the three tests I’d be taking over the next two days. I realize something funny: because I had studied, the idea of taking tests did not make me uncomfortable. Mostly because I never study, this was a new feeling. I considered how nice it was being able to enjoy the sun and changing leaves without a dark test cloud hanging over me.

I realized, what a cool trade-off! It wasn’t fun studying for a couple hours the night before, but even four hours of studying would have been worth it for the peaceful feeling that came from being more prepared than usual. I knew I had made a smart decision for once, and had foregone an evening of TV or laughing with the guys in order to be more responsible. Yes, I would even go so far as to say I was GLAD I’d studied!

As I walked down the street – I don’t know whether it was God or just my mind wandering – I got to appreciating how most of the decisions we make are big trade-offs. Granted, many of them are so unbalanced they are hardly choices at all. If you buy gas you’ve got $15 less to spend on other stuff… but there’s not a lot of other stuff you can get to when your car’s out of gas. If you have the joy of being a business student, you’ve heard all about opportunity costs in accounting. When you make a decision you have to consider the value of each alternative.

“You can’t have your cake and eat it too,” they say. Which I have never understood, because isn’t eating cake the only benefit of having it? The saying should be “you can’t eat your cake and eat it too” but then, that doesn’t roll off the tongue nearly as well. Good saying or not, the point does seem to be true. And anyone serious about being responsible with their money (accountants, for instance) knows the importance of making informed choices. Most big opportunities come around only once and if you miss the train, tough luck.

Time itself is much more important than money – if you do it right, it’s far from impossible to save more money than you can spend. In that case, you can have your cake and eat your cake, or do whatever else you’d do with it. But, although time is harder to manage and impossible to hoard, we often give our days less attention than our dollars. Every hour comes only once and we only get so many; do we weigh each trade-off as carefully as we should? Aren’t our hearts and souls more important (and harder to handle) than our cash?

I definitely do not put my decision making energy where I ought to. I am really bad about starting off my morning without prayer or time reading the Bible, although I know both of these will ready my heart for whatever the day holds. I know God’s there for me but most of the time still try to do everything on my own – and I wonder why at the end of the day I’m burned out. But the crisp fall morning mentioned above, I made a point of spending more than three sentences talking to God, and I let the few verses I read before class sink in.

It turns out God reinforced me after all! As much as it felt good to know I’d studied, my peaceful mood held something deeper, too. It’s amazing what God will do if you give him more than a passing glance and a “thanks for the fruity pebbles” in the morning. I stop to think about which stocks I should invest in and how I should lay out the newest page of this website, so why not give my spirit a fair share of time? When I start my day by reminding myself I’m clumsy but loved, it takes so much weight off my shoulders and proves the most obvious trade-off of all.

Leave a Reply