Opportunity Cost, Part 2

January 22, 2012

Glacier in Patagonia

In a recent posting, “Opportunity Cost, Part 1” I focused on the value of taking time off from work and especially traveling to new places. Working 24/7 as a therapist or psychiatrist will always yield an accounting gain but will always result in an economic and psychological loss.

Another situation in which a careful opportunity cost analysis is crucial is the specific type of work you do. You could work full time for a clinic or agency. You could be a part of a group of clinicians headed by a chief who takes a bite out of every dollar you generate. The opportunity cost of that “security” is the joy of working for yourself and the potentially higher income earned in your own private practice.

In your own business it is hypothetically possible to schedule every minute of your day seeing clients. Then you’re stuck again with the hidden cost covered in Part 1. As far as the type of clientele you choose to work for – you could, as I did early in my career, accept anyone into your practice that called for an appointment. Back then I was so insecure I would even continue seeing clients when it was clear that they were not going to pay for my service. In that situation the lost time and potential income is a glaring example of the opportunity cost of my decisions.

It is always hard to see a thing if it’s not in your search image, on your radar. From Wikipedia:  Avidyā is a Sanskrit word that means “ignorance“, “delusion“, “unlearned”, “unwise” and that which is not, or runs counter to, vidya. It is used extensively in Hindu texts, including the Upanishads and as well in Buddhist thought.

The word avidyā is derived from the Proto-Indo-European root *weid-, meaning “to see” or “to know”. It is a cognate of Latin vidēre (which would turn to “video”) and English “wit”.

The work of avidya is to suppress the real nature of things and present something else in its place. In essence it is not different from Maya(pronounced Māyā). Avidya relates to the finite Self (Sanskrit: atman) while Maya is an adjunct of the cosmic Self. In both cases it connotes the principle of differentiation which is implicit in human thinking. It stands for that delusion which breaks up the original unity (refer: nonduality) of what is real and presents it as subject and object and as doer and result of the deed. What keeps humanity captive in Samsara is this avidya. This ignorance is not lack of erudition; it is ignorance about the nature of ‘Being’ (Sanskrit: Sat). It is a limitation that is natural to human sensory or intellectual apparatus. This is responsible for all the misery of humanity. Advaita Vedanta holds that the eradication of it should be humanity’s only goal and that will automatically mean Realisation of the Self (Sanskrit: atman).

We don’t need to wade into spirituality to see that we don’t see things unless we know what to look for. Assessing opportunity cost is easily overlooked. Pay close attention to what you are doing and for whom you do it.

I would appreciate hearing your thoughts about this in the comment section below.


Leave a Reply