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Why do we stay in a job we hate, or even spend years at one we just don’t love?
Why don’t we leave relationships that make us unhappy?
Why do we marry people we know we probably shouldn’t be with?
I’ve asked myself questions like these for years–about myself–and people I know. Looking from the outside in, it seems like humans create many of their problems. So much of our unhappiness and daily complaints are caused by our own doing or things within our own control.
Why don’t we just make different choices and take the action we need to make our lives better and happier? Are we really that much in denial or so self-hating?
A lot of times we know exactly what we need to do differently in order to be happy: quit that job, finally start your own company, leave that abusive spouse, stop eating that tub of ice cream, stretch more and go to the gym, etc.
But it’s never as easy as it seems.
Without going into a long lecture about behavioral psychology, game theory, or decision making, I finally realized what’s holding us back: it’s the fear of the unknown.
As unhappy as you may be, the “devil that you know” often seems a lot less scary than the one your imagination creates.
In reality, the alternative is almost never as bad as we fear.
Too often, we convince ourselves that we should stay miserable and keep the status quo to avoid an even more dreadful substitute. But there’s rarely one alternative: life is full of countless options and choices that create infinite realities.
How to Overcome The Fear of the Unknown and Finally Change For the Better
I’d be lying if I told you that I mastered all my fears, but I am working on learning how to deal with them better. In doing so, I’ve figured out a few things that have really helped me that I’d like to share with you.
1. Play the “best case/worst case scenario” game
My x-military firefighter dad shared this risk management technique with me when I was still in grade school. Whenever making an important decision, he encouraged me to identify the best and worst case scenarios for each of the options I was considering choosing.
The first step was to think of the most extreme scenarios, or “edge cases,” no matter how unlikely they were. Next, I would think about how likely or probable each option was of happening. Finally, I would weigh the potential outcomes of each of the options, considering which had the best and worst outcomes, as well as how much risk I was comfortable taking.
2. Get comfortable with the worst alternative
For whatever decision you make, hopefully, the worst outcome won’t happen, but you should be prepared in case it does. Thinking about contingency plans for dealing with the worst thing that can happen will not only better prepare you to deal with it more effectively, but it will also help make that outcome less scary.
A lot of times, “sitting with” our biggest fears take their powers away, and allows us to calm down and think more rationally. In other words, imagining your own “worst case scenario” will help you disarm your fear. That fear doesn’t have to disappear; you just have to be able to live with it.
3. Always take the path with the most possibilities
I’m a lot more comfortable with risk than most people. When I was younger, I lived around the world with little to no connections; including taking a job in Cairo after the Egyptian revolution. When I was 23, I quit my job and started my own company.
While many of my decisions may seem crazy to others, I chose to take on risks because I believed that they would lead me to more options and possibilities. I did so because I believed having many options that allowed me to stay agile was better than just having one option that seemed good. After all, things aren’t always as they seem, and sometimes good things don’t last. As
How have you confronted your fears and embraced change? I’d love to hear any tips or tricks you have in the comments. As a bestselling author, statistician and NYU professor Nassim Taleb says in his book Antifragile, “Wind extinguishes a candle and energizes fire. Likewise with randomness, uncertainty, chaos; you want to use them, not hide from them. You want to be the fire and wish for the wind.”
March 12, 2019 at 06:44AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs