The price of anything is the amount of life you pay for it

This title is actually a quote by Henry David Thoreau.

While it might seem simple when reading the title, most people act like it’s not the case. Most people compare a price of a given product or service to related products or services. It’s normal to take a buying decision only based on what you think it’s worth in money.

I think our world would look very different from how it looks now if people always thought about the amount of life they have to pay with to get a given product.

Let me give you an example. A few years ago I got a car. It was a small Mercedes A-class. A really nice car, but also very expensive (Danish car tax is insane). Because I could afford the car and the price wasn’t too bad compared to other cars in the class, I thought it was a great deal. But I only looked at the price in money.

If I did the exact same calculation only looking on, how much time do I have to work to be able to afford this car, my decision would probably have been completely different. Because, while I loved having a car, a number of hours I had to pay to be able to drive this car were insane. That’s just to be able to afford the car. Besides that you have an extra time cost of going to the workshop with it, cleaning it, filling the gas, sitting still in traffic etc.

When I looked at it like this, I felt like I had created a prison for myself and I realized that I had to get rid of the car as soon as possible.

While, of course, some people need a car and you can’t stop just buying stuff, I think most people would change a lot of their decisions if they always had in mind that the price of everything is the amount of life they have to pay for it.

I hope and think that our mindset will change more in this direction in the future. I think that a lot of prestige of owning expensive things will disappear and instead of awe and envy, people will be like “Damn, why would you spent so much of your life to own all that stuff”.

But it’s not just things, it’s also things like work.

Today, there is prestige in working a lot. In many companies and societies, there is a bigger focus on working a lot instead of a focus on creating results and value. In other words: A completely waste of life.

I think this will change slowly in the future too. I think there will still be prestige in working a lot, but not just working a lot in itself. There will be prestige in working a lot if there is a bigger meaning to it. The younger generations are increasingly looking for impact and doing something meaningful.

In the future, nobody wants to waste their life in the office solely to earn a lot of money, but not creating a bigger difference than that.

If you’ve read a few of my posts, you know that I’m a bit critical of the education system (or at least sees better opportunities to learn). Stuff like this is something I think should be learned in school.

To get started, try to experiment with having this quote in mind when taking bigger decisions. When someone wants you to do something or you’re thinking of buying a bigger item, think about the amount of life you’re paying with and decide if it’s worth it based on that.


Originally published at Nikolaj Astrup.

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