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One small decision has a huge impact on your life

The doctor asked my aged grandfather to avoid several foods some of which was his most favourite ones that he enjoyed his entire life. He was fond of chocolates and his physician asked him to avoid that sweet item but he cannot. He always told that one piece of chocolate wouldn’t do any harm. A single piece of the decision of his physician would not have made any visible difference in his health but the issue is that small decisions always have compounding effects. My grandfather made his health problems worse one chocolate at a time.

The compounding effect of small decisions can be extremely costly in the long-run. It is so in every walk of human life. Here’s how small decisions can compound to a big issue.


Small decisions with big issues

Economist Alfred Kahn how in his essay titled “The Tyranny of small decisions” describes in detail how an individual making a series of small decisions can end up with an unwanted and unintended large decision. The author placed the example of Ithaca railroad to show how small decisions can have a shocking result. During his time, rail was the only authentic mode of travel for common people at Ithaca, New York as it could operate in any weather condition. However, travelling through road was faster and more comfortable when the weather was good. People going to or coming from Ithaca consistently used road transport services when the weather was fine. During good weather, continuing railway service was highly expensive for the authority. Eventually, the authority decided to discontinue the rail service due to the soaring cost of operation. As a result, reaching Ithaca was very difficult for common people in bad weather. If we consider every individual traveller during good weather who decided to take rod ways was not apparently a bad decision but the cumulative effect of the decisions of all travellers gave a negative result which was not expected to any individual.


Small expenses sum up to an unexpected number 

Several small decisions whose outcomes are negative can even impact negatively on your budget. David Bach, a famous financial expert explained this in his book “The Latte Factor”. Small purchases which seem really small and ineffective can sum up to a big one that you never intended to make. The author says that make just $4 purchase daily and you come to a whopping $1,400 a year which is quite large and may be unexpected to you.

This is the tyranny of small decisions. Anyone who spends $1,400 to buy any product would at least have something that would last longer and that might serve a purpose. But spending money in small proportion every day on those things that are not at all important in your life drains your money out.


Invisible payments are small decisions with heavy impacts

Another negative effect of small decisions is often visible in the increasing interest of cashless payments. When you are making small buying decisions using cash, you much money you have now and what expenses you can incur. You lose your track of expenses when you go digital. A single decision won’t affect your account much but when you sum up at the end of the month, the amount you have spent to buy various little things with no apparent utility in your life or lifestyle would look heavy.


Alignment of needs and choices with values is important

People in Ithaca didn’t understand that giving importance to anyone trip would mean the permanent end of another way of travel that they always valued. In the same way, if you don’t pay regular attention to spending behaviour you may end up empty pocket one day. To stop these kinds of nuisance everyone should align their needs and choices with values. For instance, local retail business is always important for society at large. These retailers fulfil our daily needs in different ways. If you forget the value these retailers create for us and go on ordering every single product from online stores like Amazon or Walmart, these small local businesses will stop operating. Undoubtedly, ordering online is convenient for you but you must also support local business because they support us in times of dire needs. You can make a few purchases regularly from local retailers instead of ordering every single bit of item online.


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Change the way you operate to stop unwanted happenings

The most difficult part of small decisions with negative effects is the lack of realization that it is a harmful decision. For example, you may spend for a cup of coffee almost every day without realizing its long-term value because today it is just a cup of coffee. Tomorrow it is going to be a whopping $1400 that no one realizes today. So, the best option is to “cut the source altogether”. For example, instead of carrying plastic cards always, carry cash and spend in cash. You will have instant accounts of everything. Here are some other examples of “cutting the source altogether”:

  • Travellers who actually care for underused services can take that service a few times a week without thinking much about comfort and convenience.
  • People who know that chicken burger is causing harm to their health should consciously ignore the item.
  • People who value local retail businesses should buy general items from these shops.

One needs to be conscious of small decisions. They should know the negative and positive aspects of each small decision that are recurring in nature. Take time to understand what matters most in your life and actually required as per your lifestyle. That will help you to understand whether a small decision is really important or it is just wasting your resources.


Rahul Krishna

Rahul is a serial entrepreneur has two decades of experience in hiring competent workforce globally. Trying to solve a business problem for startups and young Entrepreneurs by a Coworking Model - Empowerers Coworking City. He is passionate about developing ideas which carry an impact, building human relationships & inspiring people to do amazing things.

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