In Clayton M. Christensen’s book “How Will You Measure Your Life”, he poses a powerful principle: that it can be perilous to assess costs marginally. If you decide that you’ll make every decision on a day-to-day basis, you’ll never get there from here. First, you need to make the decision to commit to your principles 100 percent, because without that, you’re just awash in opportunities to take your life in directions that you hadn’t intended. Life is an unending series of extenuating circumstances. Which ones will you choose to deal with and not?
For example, you’ve created a budget for the month and you have met the allotted spending for dining out. Then life shows up with an extenuating circumstance for an affordable social get together at a restaurant. You might say, oh, it’s just one more event this month, I”ll go over budget just a little bit! Or you might think that the convenience of paying for someone to make your food this one evening offsets the hassle of cooking your own food. Then this begins to happen month after month. This just this once becomes a habit. In this case, you’ve let the marginal costs (which is small) bring you over a line that you’ve set for yourself.
Let’s take this to a more serious topic. What about temptation? Which temptations do you let yourself experience because the marginal cost seems so small? Which temptations tug at you and say, just this once, I’ve been good up till now and this one is such a special case… This is where your integrity starts to degrade. Innocently. Slowly. Unknowingly.
Soon your budget limits just got bigger because you never learned to say no. Same with temptation. Eventually you’ll have to go through a painful re-adjusting period to bring you back to the start where you originally wanted to be – that is if you wake up to the reality that you’ve moved from where you originally wanted to be. But perhaps you will find that you like where you are outside your previous integrity limits. Your personal convictions have softened. You have softened. Now, unless you have an outside force to correct you, YOU have moved from where you wanted to be. Would you rather rely on an outside force to keep you in line, or yourself? There is something to be said about accountability with peers, but it is more important to begin with you.
A Line of Integrity
So, draw the line now. Commit to your principles. Don’t assess everything marginally otherwise you WILL be pulled over the line. If you pre-decide to commit to your principles, the marginal cost decision will already be made for you. Isn’t that easier? Doesn’t that free you? Strengthen your conviction, which should be aligned with the purpose of your life.
Additionally, if you learn to say no to the marginal costs, you’ll learn to be humble and thankful for what you already have instead of expanding your desires. Remember your principles. The cost of breaking them for a small marginal element is a path to weakness.
It’s so easy to compromise on the little things. But over time, the little things develop into larger things and become new patterns for your life. Along the way we avoided doing the right thing or the hard work; perhaps it was easier and less stress to do so. We got away from the vision of what our life could be and we settled for something less. Without a vision, we begin to perish and fall away from a life we truly wanted to live.
It is about priorities. Each of us have things that we want to do, we should do, and we must do. It is often easier to put off things we should do for those we want, and requires a certain amount of discipline to avoid deferring responsibilities. It is a matter of choice and a choice that ultimately only we can make. Strengthening our focus is the result of discipline, purpose, passion, and living out every part of our life with our heart intention.
Stay strong my friends!
Note: None of this is new, but I just liked the concept of marginal cost to filter the thought process through. Naturally, you can apply this to your finances, your nutrition/diet, exercise, your work productivity habits, your church attendance, etc. Only you know your temptations and the principles you want to abide by.