As You Graduate: Some Words of Advice

congrats grads

It’s that time of year!

A time when young men and women around the country complete their college educations and enter a new and exciting phase of life.

Over the next few weeks, these 20-somethings will relinquish their role as “college student,” a role that many accepted with anticipation and excitement just a few short years ago. It’s a role that many, if not most, have come to love and (hopefully) value. It’s a role that has allowed them to learn a lot about others and make lifelong friends. But most importantly, it’s a role that has allowed them to learn a ton about themselves.

This role has been a significant one—one that will likely be cherished and remembered with fondness for years to come.

But now it’s time to take on a new role: that of “college graduate.”

This new role, although exciting and filled with possibility, can also be a bit daunting. Many new graduates find themselves wondering:

“What am I going to do?”

“Who am I going to meet?”

“Where am I going to live?”

“What’s going to happen to me over the next 10 (and 20 and 30) years?”

As these wonderful people—many of whom I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know—enter this exciting, yet strange, phase of their lives, I thought it might be useful to provide them with some words of advice, some suggestions that I think might serve them well as they embark on their new journey. (In fact, as you will see, I think the suggestions below are useful for people at any stage of life.)

But rather than give you my own words of advice, I want to give you the opportunity to read some amazing words that were said just a few years ago by someone I know very well: my wife, Tracy (email her at or follow her on Twitter: @tracyzinnjmu)

Three years ago, Tracy won the outstanding teaching award for the College of Health and Behavioral Studies (CHBS) at James Madison University. As winner of the award, she was asked to give the commencement address to the graduating class of 2013. Below is a (slightly) edited version of her outstanding commencement address.

I hope you enjoy it and seriously take her wonderful advice to heart.

Congratulations, Class of 2016!

Good morning, graduates!

I love graduation! It is such an honor to be able to speak to you today.

I have the best job in the world. I get to learn with these amazing students, watch them accomplish wonderful things, and then celebrate them as we send them off.

Today, my words of advice will not include such platitudes as, “Reach for the stars!” or “Oh, the places you will go!” And they will certainly not include the phrase, “You’re special!” Instead, I want to tell you:

1. To fail;

2. That life is uncertain;

3. To fight;

4. Stop trying to be happy; and 

5. To quit

Please allow me to elaborate.

1. Fail

Embrace opportunities to make mistakes. Without the possibility of failure, we have no room to grow or to learn new things. Inherent in learning are the mistakes that come with it.

In my classes, my students and I talk a lot about “negative feedback.” There is the perception that if you aren’t perfect or if you still have room to improve, something is wrong with you. Nothing is further from the truth.

As teachers, we unfortunately feed into this idea. If a student says something wrong in class, we say, “Well, that could be right” or “Yes, I see what you mean.” Or we make some other innocuous statement, ensuring that students will never hear us say, “You’re wrong.”

Buy why is it such a big deal to be wrong? In particular, why is it so horrible to be wrong about something that you are just learning? If you were never wrong in class, you should have taken a harder class!

We need to get away from the idea that being wrong is so terrible, so aversive, that we should avoid it at all costs.

The end of college is just the beginning of your lifelong learning adventure. Don’t avoid things that are difficult or that you aren’t good at yet. If you do, life will get really boring.

And if you can’t fail, then please be average.

For most of the things we try in life, we will be spectacularly average. We’ll be really good at a few things, really terrible at a few things, and average at a bunch of things.

Try enough things so that you are average a lot of the time.

Don’t avoid doing something fun, useful, or interesting just because you aren’t at the top of the heap.

And don’t think of the idea of failing as something depressing. Embrace this idea for what it is—the freedom to explore.

Let me paraphrase the great American author John Steinbeck: Because you don’t have to be perfect at everything, you won’t be paralyzed by that burden. You can just go out there and do something good.

2. Life is Uncertain

Most things in life are not guaranteed. And contrary to how some of you may feel, you don’t have to decide your entire life’s path today. This is true whether you already have the perfect job lined up or whether you’ve already picked the perfect graduate school or whether you have no idea what you will be doing in the next few months.

In reality, no one really knows what life is going to bring next or how our interests might change as we gain new experiences.

When I was 22, the possibility of becoming a teacher was not on my radar. I never thought I would get married. I never thought I would have children. Now, “mom,” “wife,” and “teacher” are primary aspects of how I define myself. In fact, many of you know my kids better than you know me.

The point is, you just don’t know.

Don’t close yourself off to possibilities that your future self might fall in love with.

When students are talking with me about their future plans, there is this sense that if they just make the right decision (about graduate school or a career), life will turn out perfect. If they pick wrong one, though, life will be ruined.

But here’s the reality: “One does not simply plan the perfect life.” Even the very best planners have to deal with uncertainty.

You will have to “sit in the grey” at times and accept that uncertainty is simply a part of life.

But this is a good thing. We are fortunate that there are always choices to make. I ask myself the same question today that many of you are probably asking yourselves: “What do I want to do with the rest of my life?”

The answer to this question evolves as you grow older and as you change your interests and focus. But the question will always remain.

The reality is that there are many paths to a wonderful and fulfilling life, all of which are lined with missteps and mistakes, triumphs and joys.

3. Fight

Stay feisty and fight. One of the beautiful things about being around college students is the passion they have for so many causes and life in general. One perk of my job is that I get to be around people with fresh ideas and fresh passions, optimistic advocates who want to make a difference.

But sometimes it’s pretty difficult to stay feisty, to keep fighting for a cause that we believe in. We see things on Twitter and Facebook daily that make us want to get involved, but then a grumpy cat meme shows up, and we forget what we were fired up about.

One day, though, you will take up a banner and fight for something you believe in.

There is a real challenge in staying appreciative for what you have and the opportunities that you were given, while at the same time maintaining the desire to make a difference in the world.

Too much of the former, and you can become complacent. Too much of the latter, and you can become bitter about how much needs to change.

 4. Stop Trying to Be Happy

Hang with me on this one, okay?

We often talk about making decisions that will make us happy, but that’s easier said than done. We often confuse what will eventually make us happy with what makes us happy right now or what is fun right now.

But here’s what we do know: We know that people are more satisfied with their lives when:

They are challenged.

They are doing something they believe has purpose and value.

They focus on the needs of others, rather than themselves.

We might be happier in the moment when we choose something easy and fun, but it doesn’t really make us satisfied with our lives. (And if you don’t believe me, just think of that class you took because you looked it up on “Rate My Professors” and saw it was easy…)

You might not (and you probably won’t) have that perfect job right out of college. If it’s not perfect, that’s okay. Don’t stop looking. Keep pursuing challenge, purpose, and a way to help others.

5. Quit

Quit doing things you don’t find interesting or valuable just because it’s something you are “supposed” to do.

Quit waiting for someone else to tell you what you need to know or what you need to do or what you should be doing. Hopefully, during your time in college, you didn’t just learn facts. Hopefully, you learned how to learn and how to think on your own.

Quit comparing yourself to others.

Don’t decide what you should do with your life based on someone else’s “perfect” or someone else’s definition of success.

Remember that, if we are lucky, “This race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.” (Mary Schmich).

I have learned so much from all of you. And not just about SnapChat and the meaning of “biddie,” although I still don’t really understand that one. You remind me to have fresh eyes when I’m looking at problems; you remind me to remember what it’s like to learn something for the first time.

I hope you keep that curiosity and pass it on to others. I hope you relax and find joy in whatever you choose to do.

And let me offer you one more piece of advice. You love your school, right? And this time in your lives has been special, right?

Don’t let your love for your time here at JMU and the specialness of your experiences blind you to all the joys that are yet to come.

There are wonderful things yet to experience, and you will always have a home right here at James Madison University.



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Pursuing What You Love: It’s Not Too Late

Twenty-three years ago, between my sophomore and junior years in college, I moved home over the summer and worked for my dad’s business.

I also got together with some friends and formed a band. We practiced weekly and ended up playing a few gigs. The last one was in August of 1993, at the high school where I had graduated just a few years earlier.

I loved playing music that summer with my band, but eventually, fall rolled around, and it was time to head back to college. Unfortunately, I went to college 6 hours away from the rest of the guys, which meant that any additional gigs would have to wait for the future.

Little did I know, though, that our August 1993 gig would be my last one for a very, very long time.

I went back to college that fall and ended up working on campus the following two summers. After graduation, I worked full time for a year at the same place. And the year after that, I was off to graduate school.

I spent the next 6 years working toward my PhD in psychology, and as you might guess, that took a lot of time—time that kept me from playing guitar as much I would’ve liked.

Eventually, the academic world called, and I decided to pursue a career as a college professor. I enjoyed my work, but building an academic career required lots of hours—hours that, for the most part, took me away from playing.

As I worked hard over the next few years, my guitar playing pretty much stopped altogether. I’d pick my “axe” up every so often and strum a few chords, but that’s about it.

For the most part, I focused on my career and tried to establish myself by doing as much work as I possibly could. Most weeks, I worked Sunday through Friday (taking off Saturdays to do things like buy groceries), frequently racking up 70 or 80 hours.

That approach started to take its toll, though, and I soon found myself on the verge burnout.

As I approached my 40th birthday, I began to reevaluate what I wanted out of life. Although my career was—and still is—important to me, I realized that it wasn’t—and shouldn’t be—everything.

I also realized that it was silly not to be playing guitar—not to be doing something I had loved so much when I was younger.

And I so decided right then and there to make some changes, one of which was to make a concerted effort to start playing again.

Within a week, I had signed up to take lessons. I found time to practice by getting up early and by systematically getting things off my plate that didn’t meet my vision of what I wanted my life to look like.

(As an aside, most of the things I got rid of were things I had convinced myself I needed to be successful. But once I get rid of those things, I made two discoveries: that I had much more free time and that my career didn’t seem to suffer at all. If you’ve convinced yourself that you don’t have time for things you love, I’d strongly recommend taking a very close look at everything you do and getting rid of those things that truly aren’t important to you. When you do that, you’ll be surprised at how much additional time you’ll have on your hands.)

At first, my guitar-playing progress was slow, but my passion quickly returned. I found myself spending more of my free time plucking away and learning new things.

This went on for a couple years, and during that time, I decided that I really wanted to join a band again. Unfortunately, my fear of “not being good enough” kept me from moving forward.

“What if everyone else is way better than me? I better keep practicing!”

Eventually, though, my fear of never playing again overtook my fear of being an inadequate guitarist. And so I took a leap and contacted some musicians in my area. We got together for the first time in August of 2015. After a few rehearsals, we realized that we got along well and had similar musical goals. And so we decided to move forward in hopes of eventually playing some gigs.

Fast forward a few months.

At approximately 8 PM on Thursday, March 17, I stepped onstage with my band, Bonfire Union, and starting playing the first notes of JT Hodges’s awesome song, “She’s Alive.”

Over the next 90 minutes, we flew through 21 songs and had a blast. I was nervous and made several mistakes, but that didn’t phase me a bit. (My parents even flew up from Florida and surprised me right before our gig started!)

After 23 years—most of which I spent thinking I’d never play in a band again—I was back doing what I loved!

And I’m not going to let it get away from me again. We have more gigs scheduled for the upcoming year, and I can’t wait to see where things go. (If you’re interested, check out our band’s Facebook page for upcoming shows.)

Am I going to be a rock star and play Madison Square Garden like I wanted to when I was a teenager?

Probably not.

My priorities are different now—I have a family that means the world to me and a career I enjoy.

But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t pursue my passions. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t chase the dreams that have lingered in the back of my mind since I was 15 years old.

Too often, I think we grow up with dreams that eventually get beaten out of us. And so we push them out of our minds and convince ourselves that they’re silly or that it wouldn’t be practical to pursue them.

Unfortunately, what that often does is leaves us feeling a little (or a lot) empty.

That’s definitely how I felt for many years.

But I’m glad I finally took the first step of picking up my guitar and starting to play again. And once I took the first step, the next steps were easier than I thought they’d be.

Look, just because you’ve taken the dreams you once had and pushed them to the back of your mind doesn’t mean they have to be gone forever.

Maybe the dream you pursue today might look a little different than it did 10 or 20 or 30 years ago, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late. In fact, there are many instances of people who decided to pursue their dreams later in life and found massive success.

Ultimately, whether you simply want to play guitar in a popular local band (like I do) or whether you want to be the next Samuel L. Jackson (who didn’t find movie success until his mid 40s), it’s not too late to give it a shot and do what you love.

It may not be easy. It may take time. But it’s definitely worth it.


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You Have More Control Than You Think

As a psychology professor, I teach a variety of classes. One class I teach each year is a class called Psychology of Learning. In that class, my students and I discuss the idea that our behavior is essentially governed by three things:

Our genetics

Our past experiences

Our current conditions (the environment around us)

For example, my genes will have an effect on how fast I can run, because I was born with relatively short legs.

My past experiences will also impact my running speed. For example, if I’ve been lifting weights for the past 6 months, I might be able to run faster because my legs are stronger than they’d otherwise be.

Finally, my current environment will also affect how fast I run. If I’m running barefoot on a stone-covered road, I will probably run slower (and experience more pain) than if I had shoes on or if the road was smooth.

Now, this idea—that our behavior is wholly affected by these three factors—leads to another conclusion, something that often makes people uncomfortable.

And it is this: If these other factors ultimately cause us to behave, then we don’t direct our own actions.

When we talk about this idea, my students get restless (largely because it seems to impinge on well-established beliefs about “free will” and other related ideas). They don’t like the notion that their behavior is determined largely by factors “outside of them.” They don’t like the idea that their behavior seems to be “out of their control.”

And because this idea is uncomfortable, they prefer to cling to the more common notion that we direct our own behavior.

“I decide what to do, when to do it, and how I’m going to do it.”

Period. End of story.

Now, I understand why the “I-direct-my-own-actions” idea is preferred. In our culture, we value freedom and responsibility and personal accomplishment.

The problem with this idea, though, is that it often leads to inaction, frustration, and disappointment, especially when we experience failure or when we (unsuccessfully) try to change our habits.

Here’s why.

If the causes of our behavior ultimately come from within, then when we fail (which we will all do at some point), the logical conclusion has to be that we must not have “it.”

If I don’t get a good grade in my class, then I’m not smart.

If I keep eating too much junk food, then I must not have any self-control.

If I can’t get off the couch to exercise, then I must not have any motivation.

And so on…

Unfortunately, when people conclude that they don’t have “it,” they often give up.

“I obviously don’t have it, so why should I even try?”

“I can’t do it. I guess it’s just the way I am.”

On the other hand, think about what can happen if we accept that our behavior is determined by factors outside of us (like our current environment).

That means that if we can identify those environmental factors, we can change them. For instance:

If you’re doing poorly in class because your teacher isn’t very good (not because you’re dumb), you can find someone to tutor you.

If you tend to binge because you have junk food in the house (not because you have no willpower), you get rid of it.

If you haven’t been going to the gym because you don’t like going alone (not because you’re unmotivated), you can find someone to go with you and set up a behavioral contract.

Now, of course, we are, to some extent, limited by our genetics. I, for example, will probably never be a champion sprinter (it’s those damn short legs again!).

But if I understand that factors outside me affect my behavior and the environment around me might be what’s holding me back, then I can try to change it.

And when I find a way to change my environment in positive ways, then my behavior will change for the better as well.

Ultimately, acknowledging that your behavior is controlled by factors “outside of you” doesn’t mean you’re no longer in control, that you’re somehow a mechanical robot that mindlessly goes through life reacting to whatever is happening around you.

Instead, I think it’s an incredibly hopeful way of thinking. Understanding that your behavior is affected by environmental factors can provide a sense of optimism—the belief that you can change things, that there is the possibility for a better life.

Accepting that your behavior is controlled by factors “outside of you” doesn’t mean you have no control. In fact, it means just the opposite.

You have more control than you think.


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If You Want to Win, Stay on Offense

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When I was younger, I played hockey. I was lucky enough to be on some very good teams, teams that won a lot of games.

In fact, during my senior year in high school, our team (Grafton-Park River) won the 1991 North Dakota State Hockey Championship (if you doubt me, click here). We scored the winning goal with 13 seconds left in the game, which made the arena (consisting largely of our fans) go absolutely crazy! It was, and continues to be, one of the highlights of my life.

I started playing hockey when I was 5 years old, and as I moved through the ranks, I learned that coaches often have very different strategies for how they approach the game.

Some coaches wanted us to be very physical, hitting (or, “checking,” as it’s technically called in hockey) the other team as much as possible. Other coaches wanted a more “wide-open” game where we did less checking and more skating and passing.

But one thing I heard over and over again as I played for different coaches was this:

“If you want to win, stay on offense. Don’t go into a defensive shell.”

Most often, we heard this when we were ahead by a goal or two and the game was starting to wind down.

The reason our coaches told us to “stay on offense” was because, when we were up by a goal or two, it was really easy to focus on trying to keep the other team from scoring rather than trying to score yourself.

Now, although the hypothetical outcome in each of these approaches is essentially the same—whether you keep the other team from scoring or whether you score yourself, you win the game—they are, in fact, quite different. And I quickly noticed that we played much differently depending on whether we were on offense or defense.

When we were on offense and trying to score, we attacked. We pushed hard at the other team and made things happen. We were proactive. And when we did that, we scored frequently (and usually won).

When we were in a defensive shell, however, we played differently. Rather than attack the other team, we were on our heels. We reacted to what the other team was making us do. And when we played like that, the outcome was often very different: We were much more likely to give up a goal or two, and sometimes, the other team even came back to beat us.

Over the last few years, I’ve come to believe that this sports analogy provides a very good way to think about our own personal development.

Staying on Offense: Covey, Skinner, and Proactivity

Quite often, when we decide to improve our lives, things start off well enough. We put in the work, and good things happen. But eventually, we get stuck, not knowing what to do next. And when this happens, we often stop trying, hoping instead that something will eventually happen that gets us out of our rut.

But when we approach our lives that way, there’s a problem. When we sit back and wait, we’re on defense—reacting and trying to keep bad things from happening to us.

What we need to do instead, though, is go on offense and make things happen for us.

In fact, many knowledgeable people, from all walks of life and from very different philosophical traditions, have given similar advice over the years.

Take, for instance, best-selling author Stephen Covey, whose famous book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” has sold over 25 million copies, and B. F. Skinner, considered to be one of the most influential psychologists of all time.

Covey’s writings show him to be a true believer in the notion of pure free will, which suggests that our choices are unaffected by past or current events.

Skinner, on the other hand, thought that free will was an illusion (as do many scientists) and that our actions are completely determined by genetics, past experiences, and things happening in the current situation.

Now, despite their philosophical differences on the notion of free will, what Covey and Skinner did have in common was the belief that we could improve our lives by being proactive.

In Covey’s “7 Habits” book, he discussed the notion of S → R, which suggests that stimuli in our environment (the “S”) automatically cause us to react, or respond (the “R”). For example, if I put food in your mouth (the stimulus), you will automatically salivate (the response). Or if you get a speck of dust in your eye, you will automatically blink.

In contrast with the reflexive nature of S → R (where we reactively respond), Covey suggested that we should instead be proactive (the first of his 7 habits).

Specifically, he said we should pause after a stimulus and proactively decide how we are going to respond to it rather than “reflexively” and mindlessly going through the motions.

Rather than “reflexively” eating the cake we are offered, we can pause, think twice, and eat something healthy.

Rather than “reflexively” wasting time watching Netflix, we can pause, be proactive, and do our homework instead.

Rather than “reflexively” going to graduate school because our parents expect us to, we can evaluate our lives and decide to take the path less traveled.

Ultimately, as Covey noted, “[E]very moment, every situation, provides a new choice. And in doing so, it gives you a perfect opportunity to do things differently to produce more positive results.”

Likewise, Skinner introduced the concept of self-managementAlthough Skinner believed that our behavior is determined, he nevertheless proposed that we have the ability to modify, or manage, our actions. We can do this by identifying the stimuli that cause us to act in certain ways and then proactively changing them.

For example, if we have a problem snacking late at night (because we see a pint of ice cream in our freezer), we can remove unhealthy snack foods from our house. No unhealthy snack foods in the house means no unhealthy snacking.

Or if we waste too much time watching Netflix when we should be studying, we can place an app on our computer (like StayFocusd) that blocks Netflix during study time. No access to Netflix means no watching Netflix.

Be Proactive, and Stay on Offense

Now, whichever of these definitions of “proactivity” we like best—Covey’s notion of free choice, or Skinner’s idea of proactively changing the factors that cause you to behave, or even some other definition—doesn’t really matter.

What does matter, though, is that we need to be proactive in trying to make things happen in our lives. For example:

I’ve tried to do this over the past year by starting this blog and holding myself accountable for my diet and exercise activities.

I’ve also tried to do this by “putting myself out there” with other local musicians and seeing how my guitar playing stacks up.

Similarly, I tell my students that they need to be proactive and seek out help from their professors if there’s something they don’t understand in class (or, as my graduate advisor put it, “You need to be a good-natured pain in the ass”).

I also tell those interested in getting into graduate school (or getting a job) that they need to email prospective graduate advisors (or employers) and get their foot in the door.

There are many other examples, but I hope you get the point.

In other words, we need to stay on offense.

We need to attack our lives and act in ways that make things happen for us, rather than hanging back and waiting for things to happen to us.

When we take control of our lives and proactively pursue the things we truly want to accomplish, we are more likely to “get the goal,” more likely to “win the big game,” and more likely to create the kinds of lives that matter to us.

So, as you tackle tomorrow and try to make improvements in your life, just remember what my hockey coaches told us:

If you want to win, stay on offense.


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Pursuing the Good Life: What Are You Willing to Pay?


Last week, my family and I were sitting at the dinner table, talking about our days.

After a bit of conversation, my youngest son, Dainen, said he wanted to have some Gatorade. He hadn’t, however, finished his dinner (which consisted of some tasty meatballs my wife had made). I told him he needed to finish his meatballs first, and then he could have some Gatorade.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t having any of my offer and decided to throw a fit instead.

“Noooooooo! I want some Gatorade now.”

To which I responded, “If you eat your meatballs, then you can have some Gatorade.”

“I don’t want my meatballs. I want some Gatorade!”

This went back and forth for awhile, until my oldest son, Rylan, chimed in: “Well, Dainen, it’s just an economic choice.”

My wife and I looked at each other, a little dumbfounded that our 7-year-old son knew something about economic principles (which, if I remember correctly, I first learned about in college). After a few seconds, my wife asked, “Rylan, you know about economic choices?”

“Yeah, we talked about them in school today. We learned about opportunity costs and response costs.”

For the next 10 minutes or so, we talked about opportunity and response costs and how they’re present in the boys’ lives.

Since that time, I’ve also thought a lot about how these costs play an important role when it comes to pursuing the good life.

In this blog post, I’d like to spend some time exploring this idea.

What are Opportunity and Response Costs?

Now, if you’re unfamiliar with these concepts, let me take a quick minute to explain them.

1. First is opportunity cost, which is a concept that comes out of economics.

An opportunity cost refers to a loss we experience when we pick one choice over another (and, importantly, we can’t have both). Usually, the “cost” is defined as what we would’ve gotten had we chosen the next-best alternative.

For instance, imagine I have the choice between (a) going with my friends to a movie I really want to see, (b) getting a couple hours of much-needed sleep, and (c) studying a few more hours for an upcoming exam.

Now imagine I can rate each of these choices on a 10-point “importance” scale.

Maybe I’d rate them something like this:

Going to the movie will provide me with entertainment and maybe a bit of relaxation, which, altogether, add up to 6/10 on my personal importance scale.

Getting some sleep will make me feel refreshed and maybe a little less stressed out. But, in fact, I feel like I can push through it. As such, it only gets 4/10.

And studying for my exam will likely get me a better grade (which may have numerous benefits later on) and thus rates 8/10.

After some thought (or maybe none at all), I decide to stay home and study, because this activity has the most total importance.

Now, by staying home, I’m doing the thing that is most important to me, the thing that provides me with the most value.

But at the same time, I’m also paying a cost because I’m missing out on the movie, which I rated as the next-best activity (and I’m also missing out on sleep).

In short, one opportunity costs us the chance for another opportunity.

2. The second concept is response cost, which refers to the idea that we often have to do one thing before we can do another. (There is another definition of response cost that is popular in the field of behavior analysis, but I’m going to deviate from that definition here.)

Whereas opportunity cost occurs when making a choice keeps us from having another, response cost occurs when we have to do one thing before the next.

Most often, the thing we have to do first is less enjoyable than the second. And quite often, it requires some effort.

For instance, maybe I have to clean my room before I can go to a movie. Or maybe I have to finish this blog post before I can practice guitar. Or maybe I have to exercise before I can eat some junk food on my Free Day.


In each case, getting what we want “costs” something—it costs responses that sap our energy, decrease our enjoyment, and so on.

Hence the term “response cost.”

Opportunity and Response Costs: They’re Everywhere

The fact of the matter is that opportunity and response costs are all around us. And more often than not, we have to pay them to get where we want to go in life.

Maybe it means working really hard in college so you can pursue your dream career.

Maybe it means staying up late and practicing guitar so you sound good during rehearsal the next day.

Maybe it means forgoing the chocolate cake so you can lose some weight.

Maybe it’s an economic cost, like when you have to save money for awhile or take out a loan to start your dream business (as the old saying goes, “You often have to spend money to make money”).

Maybe it means saying goodbye to people who are holding you back and seeking out a new group of friends who provide you with more social support.

Maybe it means tackling your fears head-on and pushing through them to a life you really want to live.

Or maybe it simply means eating your meatballs before you can have some Gatorade.

What are You Willing to Pay?

Yes, opportunity and response costs are often painful—sometimes psychologically, sometimes physically, and sometimes both. And when things are painful, we tend to avoid them…

…because we’d rather stay comfortable.

Unfortunately, the hard truth is that having a life we truly want—one that rates high on our importance scale—is usually going to cost something.

Which begs the question: What are you willing to pay to get there?


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