“The dangers of life are infinite, and among them is safety.” - Goethe
We take risks every day -- at work, in our relationships, our finances and even in choosing the way we spend our free time. Each choice we make can represent a loss and if the choice is risky, the potential loss gets bigger.
Now, add to that the fact that scientific studies show pain of loss is almost twice as great as the reward of gain and is it any wonder why so many of us choose safe and quiet lives? We’re hard wired to avoid risk.
When you decide to quit a six-figure salaried job to start your own business, it’s not like you’re just risking income loss. Your family could lose their lifestyle and maybe that will make them unhappy enough to leave you. Will colleagues lose all respect for you if your new business flops? And if they do, how will you get back into the workforce if labeled a failure? Will you lose all your friends too if the business fails and your family is gone?
Suddenly the worst case scenario of your new business venture is living at a local motel eating beans from a can. And yet, if it’s all you’ve ever wanted -- to run your own business -- and you always play it safe...then what are losing by not taking the risk?
Unfortunately, we can’t know if a risk will pay off, but we do know that avoiding risk and making fear-based decisions can ultimately limit our fulfillment. So, being mindful of our motivations and overcoming a sometimes irrational fear of loss becomes key to living a rich life.
But how do we do it when we’re hard wired for safety?
Be aware. Understand when your fear of loss is at play. Acknowledging the phenomenon and it’s affect on your decision making is half the battle. Only after you acknowledge what’s got you stuck, can you gain needed perspective to change the situation.
Get Real. Identify what’s really at risk. In our entrepreneur example above, the fear of loss does not match the probable reality. Be honest with yourself. Our six-figure, family man may lose some income when he starts the business, but if he’s run the numbers, explained the risk to his family, and has a decent exit strategy (just in case), then he probably won’t be destitute and alone if he fails.
Flip it. Channel a fear of loss into a fear of lost opportunities. Be sure and analyze the other side. What is being lost if you don’t take the risk? Be honest on this end too and you may surprise yourself with a new sense of urgency about the risks of sitting still and playing it safe. Will our entrepreneur be in the same job at 55, but no longer be seen as an innovative team member? He could be laid off in the next recession and, if so, finding new six figure employment would be near impossible. Starting a business in a recession will also be twice as difficult. Is this scenario any less likely than the imagined failure of risk taking?
Get perspective. Most of us strive for more than just experiencing success and indulging in pleasures. When you love others and follow dreams, loss and grief become part of life’s beauty. Though we understand that it is “Better to have loved and lost...” living it becomes difficult. When analyzing risk, however, keep the long and high up perspective in mind, so that you might embrace and accept the potential of loss, knowing it’s part of fulfillment.