Small decisions can have a big impact in one’s life. This is not a ground breaking proclamation. In fact, the butterfly effect theory is pretty well known (thanks, Jurassic Park). Still, it is easy to under appreciate their impact. Small decisions can result in big changes in different parts of our lives. Let’s explore a few.
On the NextGen Native podcast, we have heard multiple examples that demonstrate the impact of small decisions. Bill Cornelius discussed how he randomly decided to stop by an advisor’s office one day and learned that his application to select his college major was due that day. This small decision had a huge impact on his studies and professional career. Bryan Newland told a story about a phone call he answered that led him to take a place at a new indigenous law school program under the leadership of his future colleague Del Laverdure. If he did not take that call, or did not entertain the meeting, this small decision may have drastically altered his life. Finally, the small decision for me to join the Native American Student Union during college resulted in me stumbling across a flier for a fellowship underneath a couch. Without that flyer, I would probably not be in Washington, DC today. These are just a few examples of how seemingly small decisions can shape our lives in ways that may not be easily recognizable in the moment.
Small decisions can have exponentially positive or negative impacts on our lives.
One area where this is especially powerful is personal finance. Small costs can add up to large costs over a ten year span. To calculate, simply multiply one of your weekly expenses by 752, or monthly expenses by 173**. This will help you determine what the true cost of an expense is, plus the opportunity cost you are paying by not investing that money. Let’s assume you pay $80 per month for cable. To calculate the ten year cost of your zombie inducing television, multiply 80 by 173. I’ll save you the time calculating that, it’s $14,640! Some may think that saving $15,000 is a near impossible task but in reality, if you decide to cancel your cable bill and sign up for Netflix or Hulu at $10-$12 a month, you can significantly cut your monthly costs and your total costs over a ten year span. You can still enjoy your favorite shows, but also save or invest the difference you are spending on Netflix instead of cable. One small decision can re-align your investing priorities with your spending habits, giving your the financial independence to make more decisions for yourself.
You can do the same with almost any expense in your budget. I can, and likely will at some point, get further into personal finance issues on this blog. But the point is simply to note that “small” decisions about expenses can and do have a significant cost over the long run.
The impact of small decisions applies to personal actions, too, even if it isn’t measured in money. Do you have a friend that you hang out with regularly even if you make questionable life decisions when you are with them? (For example, there is a concept that some believe you can at least average out the impact of such people on your life.) A small, but questionable life decision can escalate into a life changing one in those instances. Is it as easy to quantify as your monthly expenses? Not necessarily.
This is not a lecture. This is not gospel. Though a chunk of it is simple math. The point is to get you to think about the small decisions you make every day and how they impact on your life. If you are not cognizant of the impact of decisions in your life, then you cannot make well informed, conscious decisions about your life. This NextGen Native wants to empower other young Native people to take control of their lives. And knowing is half the battle.
**I am a huuuuge fan of Mr. Money Mustache. I hope to cover different aspects of personal finance on this blog, but you should find your way to his blog, and at least read his “Where to Start” page.