Costs, Benefits, Tradeoffs, Tipping the Scale: #25 of 28 Big Ideas from the World of Coaching

This article is twenty-sixth in a multi-part series that adapts and excerpts my entire book, The Coach Within: 28 Big Ideas for Engaging the Power of Your Own Wisdom, Creativity, and Choices* (Everything Goes Media, 2017).


25. Costs, Benefits, Tradeoffs, Tipping the Scale

Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it. Establish your priorities and go to work.” — H.L. Hunt

A few years ago I realized that all the weight I had gained since college was the equivalent of eating a surplus of only 19 calories a day more than I burned…every day. What a shocker! A negligible amount for sure, and yet over time that steadily-mounting inconsequential amount on the wrong end of the scale snowballed into real weight gain. That single awareness made it easy for me to eventually lose all of the extra pounds with the help of a fitness tracker to keep the numbers honest — even while consuming cheese, chocolate, and wine on a near-daily basis.

During that process, my mind raced to the debt my small business accrued when I was younger. Ouch! Same story. Simply spending a little more than we took in — week after week — had unintended, cumulative consequences that were disastrous. Being more generous than the company could afford — imagine! — was not viable. In my role as business owner I somehow lost sight of what was obvious when managing my personal funds and incurred hefty costs for it until the pain became more than I could bear and I figured it out.

Big idea 25 is about examining the costs, benefits, and tradeoffs we make in all areas of our lives. It’s also about finding the places where we are tipping the scale in the wrong direction, reversing that, and harnessing the power of tilting things in our own favor consistently over time.


Some of the most powerful inquiries and challenges a coach can put to a client address just these things. The questions apply to very measurable things like the pounds and the dollars in my examples described, but are just as illuminating for the less tangible — relationships, habits, mindsets, personality characteristics, etc.

Reword these sample questions for your own purposes:

  • What is the cost to you of continuing in the same direction?

  • What are you gaining by not changing?

  • What are the tradeoffs of that way of thinking? What do you gain? What do you lose?

  • How will you benefit by taking a chance?

  • How do you lose out by staying where you are?

  • What can you do to stop your tendency to give more than you receive in that relationship?

  • How do you benefit from that outlook? How do you suffer? How do you fare when you compare the two?

  • Where do you experience the disadvantages of that expenditure most?

  • What is it worth to you to fix that?


Here are examples of challenges:

  • Imagine that you started spending as much time taking care of your own needs as those of others…

  • Let’s look at the pros and cons of that tradeoff…

  • Picture the advantages for you of taking the leap…


When things are tough and paths not clear, try steering your self-talk away from yes or no, good or bad determinations. Instead, explore coach-style with open-ended questions that evaluate costs and benefits, pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages. Consider the tradeoffs and where they leave you in the end. Even if it’s in the smallest of ways, how are the scales tipping in a given situation, time after time?

  • Where things call for balance, is there balance?

  • When things should be weighted in your favor…are they?


Your Coaching To-Do’s

⎕ As you read today’s big idea, what imbalanced areas of life came to mind? Where are you not receiving value for your efforts? Where are the costs too high? ⎕ You know what to do! Use meditation, walking, or journaling — with or without a formal coaching session with yourself — to better understand the costs, benefits, and tradeoffs of a situation that should be working more definitively on your behalf. Where is the lopsidedness? What is the source? What is the cost to you of that inequity? And, naturally, how can you fix that? What would the ideal resolution look like? What is your intention in this regard? What steps will you take and how will you hold yourself accountable?

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