Part 2: Overcoming Our Fear of Loss

     Though the proceeding story of the Canary Islands tragedy is an extreme case of how fear of experiencing loss can cause someone to override their better judgment, it does serve to remind us how in everyday life we too are prone to make unintentional decisions just to avoid losing. For example, have you found yourself buying something you don’t need because the deal is too good to pass up? Maybe you’ve stayed in a relationship you know is unhealthy and unproductive. Or, perhaps you’ve failed to invest in yourself, even though you’re aching to expand but just don’t want to put in the time or part with the money required to get started. Regardless of what it is, we all can likely relate to experiences in which our fear of loss led us to act in irrational ways.

     This very human aversion to experiencing loss was first introduced to the world by Nobel Laureates and decision-making experts Daniel Kahneman and the late Amos Tversky. Together they postulated that the discomfort wrought by our stretching outside our comfort zones is so significant that we are actually two-and-a-half times more prone to stay put than to act, if we perceive acting may involve a sense of loss. The problem, as you can very likely surmise, is that if we can’t muster the courage to move past our fear of facing loss, we cannot effectively lead. So what’s the remedy? I find it can be as simple as getting into the habit of asking ourselves two thought-provoking questions that make saying no to the status quo and yes to positive progress less daunting or disturbing: What am I Scared of Losing and So What?
     What am I Scared of Losing? This may seem a simple question, but we often go through life making choices without fully understanding the real motivation for doing what we are doing. By getting into the habit of taking a moment to honestly reflect on what’s driving our decision to act, or not act, in a particular moment, we’ll help guard ourselves from consistently making choices which cause us to lead lives far smaller and narrower than we are capable fo living. For instance, by challenging ourselves to explore if the rationale for a decision is primarily the result of our trying to preserve a sense of comfort, control, or security, we may come to realize we are merely avoiding the need for change. And without change in our lives, there is no way we can grow into the best version of ourselves possible. Bringing to light the age-old truth that often in life, we have to be willing to first risk losing something before we can expect to gain something else.     
     So What? Once we accept the reality that the prospect of experiencing loss from time-to-time as inevitable if we are to stretch our abilities and explore the range of our capabilities, it’s amazing how much easier it becomes to risk walking differently in the world. In fact, I’ve repeatedly found that the secret to routinely exercising the courage to be honest with myself about what is holding me back from doing what I know in my heart to be right in the moment, is the willingness to adopt a broader perspective of the situation at hand. By challenging myself to focus equally on all that could go right instead of just fixating on everything that might go wrong, I find myself better equipped to risk accepting responsibility for taking the initiative to lead the change I want to see—both in my own life as well as in my surroundings.    
     My question for you is, what’s keeping you from doing the same?

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John Michel
experienced leader, humanitarian, visioneer, and renown status quo buster,
is the author of the ground breaking book:
Mediocre Me: How Saying No to the Status Quo will Propel you from Ordinary to Extraordinary
Check out his blog at or drop him a note at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.