You know your project isn’t working. Every morning dread washes over you as you force yourself to work on it.
It makes you miserable. But quitting seems unthinkable after the time, money and sacrifice you’ve invested.
You, my friend, have fallen prey to the sunk cost fallacy – one of the most dangerous thinking traps that can imprison the brightest minds.
Luckily, some simple mental jujitsu can help you escape this trap and change course towards freedom and fulfillment.
What is the Sunk Cost Fallacy?
This lethal fallacy pushes smart people to continue investing in bad situations simply because they have already invested so much.
Think of a couple arguing constantly but staying together just because they’ve been together 10 years. Or a CEO throwing more money at a failed product.
In reality, only future costs and benefits should guide decisions. But we irrationally factor in previous efforts that are already lost.
The Sneaky Psychology Behind This Thinking Error
Several forces conspire to push us into the sunk cost trap:
- Loss aversion – We avoid “wasting” past efforts, even if they are already squandered.
- Goal pursuit – Abandoning a goal feels like failure, so we double down.
- Fear of regret – The anguish of having nothing to show for our work hurts too much.
- Self-justification – We fool ourselves that more investment will pay off.
Escape the Trap With These 3 Mental Hacks
Luckily, you can override this deeply embedded bias with a few simple thought tricks:
- Reframe – See your past efforts as a learning experience, not a loss.
- Focus forward – Only evaluate if future rewards outweigh future costs.
- Set a stop loss – Determine conditions where you’ll change course before starting.
Take Control of Your Life
Don’t let the sunk cost fallacy control you. Your previous effort and sacrifice don’t dictate your future.
You have the power to cut your losses and direct energy somewhere that sparks joy and meaning. The past can’t be recovered – but your future is unwritten.
Now get out there, be brave, and start writing the next incredible chapter in your story.