Don’t cling to a mistake because you spent a lot of time making it. Unknown
The Concorde fallacy (also known as sunk cost fallacy) is a term used to describe the idea that people persist with an activity or project into which they have invested a lot of time, money or energy in order not to waste the money or effort that they have already put in, even though these have already been lost. It refers to the fact that the British and French governments continued to finance the aircraft even after it became evident that it was no longer commercially viable.
The term can also be applied to intimate relationships. Too often people stay in a bad relationship because they think that all the months or years that they have invested into it will have been a waste. Giving up would mean losing that investment. Giving up would mean admitting that we may have made the wrong decisions in the past. Consequently it seems easier to continue with the relationship and hope (against all odds) that the investment will eventually become profitable.
We invested our love. We invested our trust. We invested our time. Some of us invested our whole selves into our relationships. The returns are none-existent and the original investment is all gone, yet we persevere. Why?
Our decisions are not taken rationally but are based on our emotions. We are stuck in a vicious circle. The more we continue to invest, the harder it becomes to abandon it. We are founding our choices on the past rather than using the present situation to make balanced decisions. Would we have started investing if we knew that our investment would not succeed? Probably not. But if we know now that the investment is not successful, why do we continue? We know that there have been no returns and that further loss is much more likely than any profit or benefit, so why do we keep going?
Obviously perseverance can be a good thing and I am not suggesting giving up at the first hurdle. What I suggest is to take the time to take stock, analyse and reflect. Are you throwing good money after bad? Do you continue to make bad investments because you are afraid to lose what you have already invested? Do you stay in a bad relationship because you do not want to waste the emotion or time that you invested in it?
Maybe it is time to cut your losses and end the fallacy…
(The above photo of Concorde was taken at London Heathrow Airport in 2001. At the time British Airways was offering free Concorde upgrades on outbound flights from London to New York. Their Slogan then was “arrive before you leave” as the 10 am flight from London would arrive at 8 am local time in New York.)