During this week you’ll cultivate a healthier attitude toward losses in life, and you’ll feel connected with a world much larger than your family, workgroup, or neighborhood.
Overcoming the fear and regret of losing
I fear losing. I fear loss of life, loved ones, respect, health, money, and much more. I know I am not alone in this fear. Research shows that for the same absolute change, the pain of loss feels twice as potent as the pleasure of gain. Understandably, we try our best to protect ourselves against losses.
For the losses already incurred, we simmer in regrets. Losing makes me sad and apathetic. Thinking of what ifs, could haves, and should haves, I start blaming others or myself. Unable to find peace in this blame game, I find the pain of loss multiplies and crowds my present moments.
I can’t bypass losses. I also can’t eliminate my fear of losing. However, I can soften my fears of a future loss—by thinking rationally about the probability of loss (instead of catastrophizing); taking actions to minimize the loss; thinking positively about the past, present, and future gains; and if all that doesn’t work, imagining (and internally accepting) the worst-case scenario.
Five perspectives help decrease my regrets for a previous loss; the first three are more tangible, and the last two, more a matter of belief.
• First, I started my life with zero net worth, so everything I own today is a net gain.
• Second, every material possession, including my physical body, is finite. One day I will have to surrender it all. I can’t control the timing of the surrender.
• Third, I should focus less on what I’ve lost and more on what I still have.
• Fourth, only the unneeded is taken away. I don’t get to keep what I want; I only get to keep what I need.
• Fifth, this loss may be protecting me from some unknown loss or adversity that could have been much more sinister. So this loss might actually be an unrecognized gain.
When dealing with a substantial loss, I seldom succeed in applying these perspectives right away. After my initial grumbling, however, each of these insights provide me a useful mind-set to reevaluate the situation and rapidly recover my hope and energy.
The renewed hope and vitality help me explore and engage despite the fears, accept smaller losses more easily, look at the bigger losses with greater acceptance, and not discount what I didn’t lose.
I have a choice. I can choose to wake up with fear, regrets, and self-doubt or with excitement about fulfilling a prosocial meaning. When I wake up with fear, I spend the day escaping that fear. When I wake up thrilled to fulfill a prosocial meaning, I spend my day immersed in activities that support that meaning. In order to choose meaning over fear, I need to develop a healthy attitude toward past and future losses.
May you find the strength to accept your losses and the foresight to minimize them.
@AmitSoodMD (on Twitter)
Question: Is there a better perspective to accept material losses?
Answer: Do not dwell excessively on material losses, for everything you lose, in the context of the universe, is trivial, and eventually it has to go anyway.
Intention: This week I will not fear or mourn material losses; instead, I will be grateful for what I have.