Let’s start with a little review from Part 1.
The sunk cost fallacy is the proverbial thing of throwing good money after bad. It’s when people push forward on a bad choice believing that investing more time, money, effort, and other resources will save a project or a relationship that appears to be failing.
Anyone can fall into this trap and there are a number of reasons why we do so. It can be hard to admit to oneself and to others that things aren’t working out. This would be worse if you are your own worst critic, severe in your judgments of yourself (or if you are in an environment of critics). Or maybe you just are not seeing another way. Furthermore, it’s only natural that you would want to recover something useful from a personal investment that you put your heart into.
You can worry too much about what you lose by moving on, making you more likely to overlook what you gain by it. Unfortunately, that’s just when you tend to overlook the benefits of a new plan.
People who use the promotion focus concentrate promoting their hopes and aspirations. They tend to think in more positive terms and are geared toward potential growth and what they have to gain. Psychologists have determined that these people will be more willing to abandon a failing pursuit, cutting their losses to go for what they want most. They can accept losses and appreciate what they might be accomplishing by a new direction.
People who use the prevention focus concentrate on duties and obligations, making them more sensitive about sunk costs. They can feel more anxious and they are more likely to see abandoning a project as a complete failure.
This isn’t to say that focusing on obligations and costs is wrong. It’s necessary, and one can imagine scenarios in which this approach might be better. However, the promotion focus can lend itself to greater flexibility and adaptability to difficult circumstances.
Most of us adopt the prevention focus, sometimes unconsciously. The rigid reliance on the prevention focus shows up with our EAP clients fairly often, usually with the person who clings to a bad relationship when everyone else can see that it will go nowhere and that it is damaging.
What about you? Ask yourself whether you tend more toward the promotion focus or the prevention focus. When has each of these been suitable for you? When have they not worked? How might you more effectively use both ideas in your work, relationships, and personal pursuits?