What You Fear Defines What You Do
The current world has become a place where many people are afraid. Between news of a European financial collapse, government budget deficits, asset bubbles in China, and all of the other things that people normally fear, there is no shortage of material to inspire apprehension. The thing that is important for us to understand is that fear is a natural emotion. All people feel fear in some regard or another. However, there are very key differences in the decisions that we make depending on what we fear.
In this way, what we fear defines what we do. The reason for this is because our sub-conscious minds naturally push us away from that which we are afraid of. Thus, we end up unconsciously taking actions to keep us away from what we are afraid of.
Some People Fear Failure
The fear of failure is possibly the most common of all personal, professional, and financial fears. This also covers the fear of loss. Many of us are afraid of losing relationships in our life, or losing our job, or losing the opportunity to attain a promotion at our job, or losing money with our investments. In general, many of us fear any form of loss and go to considerable lengths in order to insulate ourselves from the impacts of these losses that we fear.
Some people stay in relationships that they know are unhealthy because they fear being alone. Other people resist dating due to a fear of rejection. Many people also possess a gripping fear of public speaking. Any activity that places you in a situation to be judged by other people is a prime opportunity for fear to creep in. It is uncomfortable to go out on a limb, and it is difficult to absorb criticism.
Our careers are other areas where we frequently make decisions based on our fears. Many people fantasize about starting a new business or pursuing a new career direction, but are suppressed into inaction over the fear of losing their source of livelihood. And this fear is very understandable … there are few things more frightening to many of us than the prospect of being unable to financially provide for our families.
Investments are one of the areas where fear plays out in ways that are the easiest to see. Recently, the US treasury yield fell to it’s lowest level in recorded history. This happened because so many people were buying treasuries that the price escalated. This is what many refer to as a “fear buy” since people are worried over the prospect of bonds in the Euro Zone and in many other areas. They are more concerned with with preserving their capital than earning a high rate of return, and flock for the safety of US treasuries.
Some People Fear Lost Opportunity
Another vector of fear that inspires some people is the fear of lost opportunity. This mindset views the world in terms of opportunities that are taken and ones that are lost. Financial or business failure is viewed as temporary. The true thing that these people fear is a failure to reach the full potential of their life. The value of this perspective is that it helps to place failure in context. Failure is only permanent if we abandon our pursuit of success.
From this perspective, failure takes on an entirely new meaning. What we learn from the realization that what most people view as total failure being only temporary in nature is that we frequently pay a great price for the perception of security in the form of lost opportunity. It is most certainly true that lost opportunity is and always will be one of the greatest prices that we pay for any decision. The fundamental problem is that we frequently cannot tell a worthwhile opportunity is present until after the chance to capitalize has passed.
None of this is to say that we should live with reckless abandon. Quite to the contrary, each of us should seek to guide our decisions with prudence and intelligence. However, we should make our decisions from a holistic perspective that recognizes the impact of both short-term risks and long-term opportunities. In effect, we must learn to hold our emotions in check so that our decisions reflect our underlying values instead of our underlying feelings.
In the end, our decisions will ultimately define our lives. In many cases, our fears define our decisions and thus come to define the way that we live. Thus, our true ambition is to fear intelligently so that our natural course of action will fall upon an intelligent path.