Have you noticed how many of our fears are unfounded? Yet, far too often we allow the fear of what could happen to grip us, sometimes even to the point of paralysis. Caught up in a cycle of worry and uncertainty, we’re tempted to choose the overcautious approach to life. But when we do, we miss opportunity as a result.
Sound the Alarm
A few weeks back, a storm barreled through during the morning commute. Strong winds blew down trees and caused property damage in some spots. That night, angry parents complained of school officials’ failure to delay the start of the school day until after the storm had passed.
Just last week, meteorologists warned of an impending weather system with the possibility of severe storms. The day the bad weather was expected to hit, multiple school systems closed based on the forecast.
People in our area were clearly on edge with the dire predictions. It seemed every encounter brought a discussion about the weather. The delivery man hustled to finish his route early. A new neighbor inquired about storm shelter locations. Several chose to cancel appointments so they could hunker down at home.
Fear and Missed Opportunity
Initially, the storms were expected to hit around 11:00 a.m. But as the day progressed, the anticipated arrival time got pushed further and further out. In the end, the system weakened and our area was spared of any severe weather at all. Parents again questioned the actions of school administrators but for the opposite reason this time.
People panicked and kids missed a day of school for an event that never happened. A perfectly good day full of opportunity was lost.
While the line between preparedness and overreaction is thin, it’s worth considering how much opportunity is missed when we hyper-focus on the potential danger and place less emphasis on the possibility of a better outcome.
Have you ever been so consumed with the worst-case what-if’s that you chose to shrink back out of fear only to later regret it?
Moments of Decision
We all face those moments of decision to take a chance or hold back. For instance:
- We’re offered a promotion but have never supervised employees before.
- We have a desire to speak up about something important to us but it might be unpopular and subject us to criticism.
- We create a new product but don’t know how to take the first step in getting it to market.
This is when it’s time to evaluate the upside of moving forward versus the cost of giving in to fear.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Anxiety can be a greater enemy than the thing we’re worried about.
We can’t control the weather and we can’t control the reactions of others. But we have complete control over our behavior and how we respond to the circumstances we’re dealt. To make well-informed decisions and better manage the risks, it pays to:
- Know the risks involved.
- Minimize the risks where possible.
- Determine the opportunity.
It’s important that we gather all the information we can in order to weigh the risk against the opportunity. We shouldn’t ignore the possibility of hazards but we shouldn’t minimize the very real peril of missing out on opportunity either.
Mother Nature doesn’t always operate according to computer models. Regardless of our best efforts to predict risk, prevent loss, and protect ourselves, things don’t always go as planned.
Just as weather patterns shift, so do life’s circumstances, but we can’t let every threat of a dark cloud stop us from moving forward.