A or B? Choose carefully.
In life we are always faced with choices. Some of them are basic, like deciding what to wear, while others are a bit more complicated, like deciding to take a loved one off of life support. In each case, we are given facts and opinions that are designed to help us reach a conclusion. It’s snowing, therefore I should wear a jacket. He or she has limited brain activity, therefore we should pull the plug. Seems simple enough, right?
In every decision we make, there is always a trade-off. If we get one thing, we don’t get the other. So how do we decide? Well, if you’re rational (in the classical sense), you do a cost-benefit analysis. While your jacket is ugly, it’s better than being cold. While there is a chance your loved one could wake up, the quality of life he or she would live would be minimal. In making a decision, you weigh the pros and cons, deciding accordingly to choose the more palatable option.
So why do we choose things that are “bad” for us? Well, one could argue in that instance that we weren’t acting rationally.
For whatever reason, our abilities to process information rationally were compromised and we made a “bad” decision. It’s a common phenomenon that most people experience multiple times in their lives.
You bought clothes instead of paying your rent. You didn’t study for that test tomorrow. You told the wrong person you loved them. The list is endless. But, are all ‘bad’ decisions really bad?
Perhaps a decision that hurt us in the short-term benefited us in the long-term. While buying clothes instead of paying your rent certainly was problematic, perhaps it taught you in the long-run how to manage your expenses, or to move into a place with cheaper rent so you could afford both.
You failed the test because you didn’t study, but working hard to pass the class afterwards showed you just what you can accomplish with little resources and maybe even established some good study habits. You told the wrong person you loved them, but even then you learned a lot about yourself and who you can depend on.
Don’t get me wrong. I am by no means recommending that you blow your rent money or fail your exams. However, what I am advocating is for you to not the judge the merit of a decision purely on its short-term effects.
Perhaps a seemingly irrational decision could end up being a rational choice in the end.
If you still aren’t convinced, think about the immediate benefits you experienced when making the decision — the ones that made you feel alive like falling in love, traveling the world, or even choosing to spend time with your friends or family instead of studying for that test.
If you aren’t yet persuaded, I leave you with the question: Is a purely rational life, one where everything is a cost-benefit analysis and all decisions are black or white, a life worth living?