“If you want it... go for it. Take a risk. Don't always play it safe or you’ll die wondering.” - Unknown
You wonder things every day, maybe subconsciously, but the questions are there: “What if I fuck this up? What if they leave me? What if I go broke? What if they say No?”
Behind these negative “what ifs” are pervasive, instinctual fears. Fears like abandonment, rejection and death. In the modern world, most of these base fears are unfounded. It is unlikely that you will lose your entire family, or all of your friends, if you take a risk. It is unlikely that you will be rejected by all of society if you fail a task. It is unlikely that you will make a bad decision that leads to death.
Ever wonder why we don’t we engage in more positive “what ifs?” For example: “What if you hiked an hour a day at lunch starting now? What if you quit work and a new opportunity presented itself? What if you started that business and it took off?”
We don’t typically talk like this because it’s not “realistic,” but positive outcomes are as likely as negative ones when it comes to risk taking. The real problem is that we’re obsessed with failure and don’t want to go anywhere near it. We’re too insecure about our place in the world and failing taps into those deep-seeded fears of rejection and death.
According to research done by UC Berkeley professor, Martin Covington, we protect our self worth by avoiding failure, so we can believe we are competent and project that competence out to others. It’s a pretty insecure way to live . . . propping up our fragile egos.
If you’re barely hanging onto to self worth, failing might push you over the edge into a land of self doubt and loathing. Unfortunately, this is a Catch-22, because playing it safe does not protect you from these insecurities; you’re just harboring doubt so it can blossom into future regret.
As Goethe says, ““The dangers of life are infinite, and among them is safety.”
If you don’t believe it, ask the dying. As it turns out, there is ONE predominant thread of regret that surfaces when questioning older people. In their wisdom and hindsight, they mostly regret inaction. For actions not taken, they feel a greater sense of loss than they do for any regret toward a deed done.
In other words, people regret the things they DO NOT do and failures in action are just blips on life’s radar. It’s the failure to act that haunts people.
So what’s it going to be? Will you ironically die wondering, “what if,” because you spent your entire life afraid of those negative, “what ifs?” Or will you embrace adventure, take a few risks, endure a few failures and end up with a catalog of amazing experiences?
As Jack Canfield says, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” So flip it, use it, and fear the future regret as much as you fear risk and failure.
Because you do not want to die wondering what might have been, if only...