Why do the exercise?
The cost-benefit analysis is a great tool for exploring unwanted thoughts and behaviors. In situations where it is difficult to make choices due to ambivalence, this method can also help you make decisions. It helps you challenge old, unhealthy thought patterns so that they are replaced by new, more adaptive thoughts, and you get a nuanced analysis of potential conflicting thoughts and attitudes.
How to do the exercise
The exercise works by writing down a specific thought or behavior and describing the pros and cons of that thought or behavior. Find a place where you can sit quietly and undisturbed while doing the exercise, and make sure you have something to write on and with.
- Start by figuring out which thought or behavior you would like to change and write it down. It could be, for example, ‘I never get up before 11AM ‘.
- Now you make two columns, one where you can write all the pros and one where you can write all the cons. One benefit could be that you feel well rested. One downside could be that you feel ashamed of sleeping in.
- Once you have written down the pros and cons, you can give them a score of 0-10. You do this to get an overview of how important the various advantages and disadvantages are. It may well be that the list of advantages is longer than the list of disadvantages, but that all the disadvantages actually matter more to you, and your life, than the advantages. It can also be the opposite.
- You can choose to add up the scores you have given, so that you have a total score for the pros and cons. This can be especially helpful if you have written down many pros and cons, as it makes it easier to compare them.
- Once you have looked at both the pros and cons of the thought or behavior that you would like to change, you can start trying to find an alternative that has fewer disadvantages. For example, it could be that you start setting your alarm at 10AM instead of 11AM. It could also be that you start going to bed earlier, so you can get the same amount of sleep, but still get up earlier in the day.