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Most our life has been spent sorting out what things have value and what things don’t. Friendships, jobs, things we buy, people we meet—we’re constantly evaluating whether our time, our money, and our effort is going to be well-spent and whether it’s a good long-term investment.

After all, every value decision you make is a risk. There’s no crystal ball that tells you beforehand how things are going to turn out. Plus, you probably have horror stories about the times where your money, time and effort felt like a complete waste. At some point, we all get fooled by the flashy paint job. You smack your forehead and say to yourself, “What was I thinking?”

What makes it worse is when you really want something. Whether it’s a person or a situation or something you want to buy, when your heart rate goes up and your desire is off the chart, you’re not objective anymore. It’s very difficult to judge whether something has genuine value. That’s when you’re more likely to make a bad decision.

Unfortunately, misreading value is a part of life. However, there are a few steps you can take to minimize the number of times it happens to you. The first is awareness: paying attention to the warning signs that may be telling you that the value you thought you saw may not actually be there. It’s listening to your instincts; that quiet voice in your mind that’s saying, “Be careful here. There’s something off.” You may not know exactly what it is or you may not be able to find the right words to describe it, but your instincts are usually right, so learn to trust them.

Another great step to help you evaluate value is talking it out with someone else. At the end of the day, value is subjective and very personal. The closer you are to something, the harder it is to work out its value on your own, especially if there’s a lot of emotion involved. An objective opinion from someone you trust can cut through that fog and give you a chance to step back and ask, “Is what I’m getting equal to what it’s costing me?” That’s important because if that balance is off—if the cost to you is higher than the benefit or the joy you’re receiving—there’s a value problem.

Finally, remember that value changes over time. Sometimes, we see a lot of value up front, but that value fades as time passes. If the value has faded, it might be really hard to let go, especially if you’ve been holding on to it for a long time. Realizing that a relationship or an item has lost its value and it’s time to give it up can hurt, especially when you have a lot of memories wrapped up in it.

Just remember this. When you let something go, you make room for something new—something with even more value. If you’ve been duped by a façade or realized that the value you thought was there actually isn’t, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, let it go and know that the emptiness that you feel now is eventually going to filled by something that has even more value to you.


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