Imagine for a moment that you would able to go after your goals without having to fear criticism from friends and family. Would you devote more efforts to pursuing your ambitions if you did not have to worry about ridicule in case of failure? How far would you invest yourself if you never had to deal with discouragement and doubts?
Fear inhibits achievement
There are good
reasons why we fear failure more than we crave success. If we formulate
the proposition in purely material terms, the discomfort suffered from
not having any car is far superior than the advantages derived from
having two cars; similarly, the terror of losing all our savings in a
stock market crash is stronger than the perspective of doubling our
assets if stock prices rise.
Worry and anxiety are powerful
inhibitors of achievement. Fear can make us discard viable initiatives;
apprehension may consume our energies and prevent us from moving
forward; concern can block reasonable attempts to improve our situation.
stay behind because our minds blow risks out of proportion; we give up
too soon because we underestimate our capacity to adopt preventive
measures; we walk downtrodden paths for fear of lions that we have never
seen; we stick to unproductive routines to avoid the discomfort
associated with change.
Books and lectures that recommend to take
risks remain unconvincing to most people. Common sense weighs heavier
than motivational speeches. Change is disruptive; we crave what we can
gain less than we dread what we can lose. Cheerful words and doubtful
promises are not sufficient to assuage our concerns. Only realism can
prompt us to overcome fear; only rationality can lead us to take
Thinking must take place before action if
such action is to be productive; planning must take place before
implementation if success is to be attained. Self-confidence needs to be
built before it can be applied; skills must be acquired before they can
be employed. How can we overcome exaggerated fears and take
well-calculated steps? In which way can we increase our chances of
Reason is the most powerful tool for dismantling
falsehoods. If we grow convinced that we stand a good chance of
accomplishing our goals, we will become less worried and more
adventurous. Logic is our cardinal ally for contesting overblown
concerns. The best way to face fear is to demonstrate its irrationality.
A distorted picture
The intensity of a
potential catastrophe is independent of the likelihood of its
occurrence. Salesmen promote insurance policies by painting vivid
pictures of misfortune, but their sales presentations seldom mention the
actual statistical probability of such misfortune taking place.
Remember that the perception of risk is heavily influenced by
cultural stereotypes. Saving rates differ from country to country
according to how citizens see their future; the willingness to change
jobs and move to a distant city is higher in the US than in Europe; the
proportion of the population that invests in the stock market also
varies from country to country.
An objective assessment
Potential dangers need to be quantified in order to be properly
assessed. If emotions take control, they will exaggerate the negative
consequences of risk. On many occasions, the material damages that
people actually suffer are minor compared to the accompanying
Many things we fear arise from stories written by marketeers.
Why do California residents protect themselves more often against
earthquakes than against divorce? Because salesmen market earthquake
insurance very effectively, while at the same time, few couples are
aware that a pre-nuptial agreement can protect them against a
Taking the time to assess risks objectively
is essential for making good decisions. If you are considering a
challenging professional move, forget about irrational fears and ask
yourself the right questions: if your new job proves to be a
disappointment, what is the actual likelihood of your becoming
unemployed? Even if you lost your new position, how long would it
reasonably take you to regain employment?
We worry about risks
that have been exaggerated by marketeers trying to promote their
products or services. Those who sell pension plans frequently paint grim
pictures of retired people living in poverty and rightly so. There is
no reason why salesmen should refrain from offering their insurance
policies, but it is up to us to appraise risks according to their true
Thoughtfulness and prudence
The next time that you hesitate between taking action or
staying put, do not make a decision until you have assessed all facts.
Make an effort to discard emotions that might be polluting your
perception. Quantify the positive and negative aspects; weigh off the
severity of risks with the likelihood of their occurrence.
analysis reshapes risks and unveils opportunities. Thoughtfulness
replaces concern with prudence and worry with caution. On most
occasions, a rational assessment of advantages and disadvantages will
prompt individuals to take initiative. Becoming an entrepreneur in your
everyday life begins with understanding risks and our ability to deal
with them effectively.
Image by BigTallGuy under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us
For more information about rational living, I refer you to my books