Know the Opportunity Costs to Reduce Stress

stress and opportunity costs

One way to reduce stress is to realize that everything in life has a price. The key to reducing stress is knowing the price beforehand and being willing to pay the price.

I’m not talking about actual dollars and cents here. I’m talking about the emotional, mental, or physical costs for every action you take.

For example, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the world’s great technology universities, new students are asked to choose two from the following: friends, grades, or sleep.

The point, of course, is that one cannot have all three.

The concept that “everything has a price” is similar to “opportunity costs” that economists use. For example, if you watch a television program, rather than read a book, you have lost the time that could have been devoted to reading. The opportunity cost was in losing reading time. That would have been the price you spent for watching television.

If the book you opted not to read was vital to your career or grades, do you think you’d feel stress the next day? If you needed the information in that book for a meeting or a test, you will likely feel stress because you are now unprepared. You chose to watch TV instead. However, if you analyze your decisions and review the real costs of each, you can reduce your stress because you are prepared and have accepted to pay the price.

The principle is simple—yet it can be life-changing. Simply ask yourself, “What is the price I am paying for doing what I am about to do?” When you respond, you will have a tendency to perform that which is in your best interests, which can greatly reduce your stress.


Teaching, parenting, and simply living can be stressful at times. That’s why I wrote my newest book Live Without Stress: How to Enjoy the Journey. If you’re looking for stress management advice, check it out. The book is available as a print book (Buy one and get a second copy free to give as a gift), as an eBook, and as an audio book at