The two ownership questions

The endowment effect is a human condition. Due to the endowment effect, we attach a higher value to things that we own. Therefore, most of our cupboards have more clothes than necessary, while most of our calendars have more appointments than optimal.

Here are two ways in which we can try and change that.

For stuff:
Let’s assume you’re clearing your cupboard. The first step is to gather every single piece of clothing in a large pile, which is meant for discarding. From that pile we rescue items that we really wish to keep. Changing the default setting from “keep” to “discard” can yield powerful results.

Any article we pick up needs to pass another test. This test is the answer to the question – “Assuming I didn’t own this piece of clothing, what would I pay today to acquire it?”. We then use that number to choose to discard or retain.

Needless to say, this can be applied to any manner of things – clothes, vessels, books or even kitchen supplies.

For projects:
List out all projects you have and reduce their budget to zero (in terms of time and money). The killer question here – “Assuming I didn’t have this project, what would I do acquire it?”

At this point, it becomes clear that some of our projects would stay put in the discard pile. Those are the ones to be abandoned or uncommitted from. We can then direct our precious resources to the essential ones that remain.

The endowment effect demonstrates how ownership works both ways – the stuff and the projects we own end up owning us as well. The way to liberate ourselves is to have them earn back their ownership periodically rather than let them occupy our cupboards and calendars by default.

Inspiration: Essentialism – Greg McKeown

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