Let’s take a moment and think of them. Think of some of the excuses that you can drum up to keep from trying something new, taking a risk, or doing something to change your life:
Something may go wrong.
Things may not go the way that I planned.
I tried doing something once, and it didn’t work out.
Bad things could happen if I am unsuccessful, so I won’t try.
It might upset those around me if I change my behavior.
The list of possibilities is endless. There are so many reasons why you should not take any risks in life – except for one thing. Living in fear is not really living at all!
Fear is a natural response to any dangerous situation. Fear is something that children naturally possess. The fear of strangers, the fear of falling, and the fear of the dark are all fears that are routinely found in children. Being fearful can have a protective effect on a child’s well being. For example, being afraid of loud noises could prevent a child from fearlessly running into a dangerous situation. However, adults sometimes generalize this “protective intuition” into a fear of trying anything new because they do not want to fail or make a mistake.
Most people who lead full, rich, and satisfying lives will validate that personal growth is a very important aspect of their lives. If you are the same person at 40 years of age that you were when you were 20 years old, you may very well be bored, unhappy, and feel that your life has gone nowhere. That very well may be the case! Every day that you waste will not be replaced. Just imagine how you would feel if you woke up one day and felt that you had wasted 20 years of your life! Living in fear will prevent you from growing as a person. If you constantly second guess yourself, focus on your mistakes, and think about the downside of any new situation, you will never voluntarily choose to move forward with your life. It will be difficult for you to be a “self-starter” or make any changes in your life because you will be afraid of all the possible negative outcomes of your decision.
The fear of making a mistake also results in another sad situation: it is very unlikely that you will take advantage of all the opportunities in your life that present themselves to you. You may choose not to make a change in your career, take a promotion to a different type of job in the same company, enter into a new business venture, enter into a new relationship, or have a child. These are just a few of the decisions that may be put off and put off until you can no longer take advantage of them. There are, in fact, many opportunities in life (e.g., a career change or having a child) for which there is never a “perfect time.” Waiting for that time is really making a decision not to move forward with your life. The majority of the opportunities that we have in life (e.g., beginning a new relationship or entering into a new business venture) are time limited. Therefore, your paralysis about whether or not to take advantage of an opportunity will simply result in that opportunity being lost.
Many of my clients who have repeatedly failed to take advantage of opportunities (especially business opportunities that have later proved to be successful ventures for someone else) experience a sense of failure or depression. “Why didn’t I do that” is a question that may nag at them for the rest of their lives. These feelings can only lead to unhappiness and the belief that they have wasted large chunks of their lives. Unhappiness or general non-enjoyment of life can lead to a plethora of unintended consequences including poor health, severed relationships, and depression or anxiety.
My message to you should be clear: while it is important to carefully weigh the opportunities that are placed before you, choosing to live a “safe” life with few or no risks may also be a choice to live a frustrating and unhappy life. A certain amount of risk-taking is an important part of any full and successful life. Yes, there will be times that you fail. Yes, there will be times when you wish you had made another decision. Yes, hindsight may prove that waiting for a different opportunity would have been a better decision. However, each of your decisions that result in a successful experience will give you a general sense of happiness about your life. They will also open more successful opportunities to you in the future.
There are endless reasons to not act on a hunch, seize an opportunity, or live each day to the fullest. However, the lost opportunities and the lack of enjoyment of your life will far and away outweigh any risk that you may choose to take. When in doubt, just remember: living in fear is not really living at all!
Copyright © 2000 – 2011 Susan C. Rempel, Ph.D. All rights reserved.
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© 2000 – 2011 Susan C. Rempel, Ph.D. All rights reserved.
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