Choosing Your Battles

Written on March 17, 2009. Written by .

When you believe strongly in your principles, it becomes tempting to put up a fight whenever they are challenged. The problem with this is that fighting for your principles takes time and resources that will be quickly depleted if you take on every battle you come across. I still think it is good to fight for your principles as much as possible, but this is a problem that requires optimizing decisions itself. Sometimes letting go can be more productive because it allows you to focus on a project that will make bigger changes in the long term.

Recently I visited a doctor and I received a bill with several charges that I was never warned about. After two visits, the doctor was unable to diagnose me or give me any useful advice. Yet the way the system works, doctors get paid regardless of if they provide solutions. Not only that, but in the current system, doctors get to charge arbitrary amounts without the patient’s consent. Before my visit, I told the staff at the office that I wanted to know exactly how much it would cost and they gave me a precise number. But when I received the bill, that number had increased, without my consent, from $210 to $315. And this is for a total of 30 minutes of services.

Now I am not concerned about the money itself. I would have gladly paid the inflated figure had it been agreed upon in advance. But in that case I probably would have went to another doctor who quoted me at $165 for the same thing. What bothers me is that the doctor is breaking the principle of voluntary exchange. By this I mean that the details every transaction should be agreed upon in advance because anything else is guaranteed to cause problems. It is simply too easy for a doctor to cheat the patient if he has the power to charge without limits. It is tempting to dispute the charges, just to take a stand for what is right, but in this case I think the potential gain is too small, so I am going to pay it and not feel bad about it.

The reason why it is not worth fighting at this point is that I have no audience. If I took a stand in court, it would take a lot of time and nobody present would care to hear about my views. That time would be better spent writing on this blog and trying to reach out to a larger audience that is receptive to these ideas.

Learning to choose your battles wisely can be difficult if you think about your principles a lot. I think the best option may be to try to not think about principles too much during your daily life. It doesn’t pay too much to dwell on things you can’t change. At the same time, you don’t want to forget what you stand for, which is why it is good to do something like keeping a blog or journal where you occasionally record your thoughts. Then when you do find yourself in a situation of power, you will know how to sieze the opportunity.

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