Brain Food #649
Life is broad, and our path narrows
Thoughts of the day
We have a tendency as humans to magnify our losses and diminish our gains, a cognitive bias known as loss aversion.
The term, coined by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, encapsulates how we experience losses asymmetrically, and more severely than equivalent gains. We would rather avoid losing something than gaining something. It is why, in investing, someone would choose to hold onto an unprofitable stock and sell one that will yield some minor returns. It is why marketing tricks you into free trials and limited-time offers. It is why we pay insurance to protect ourselves from potential, often unlikely, future disasters. It is why we don’t give up on a book we are not enjoying, because of the time we have spent reading it already.
Strangely, loss aversion could also be a link to fear of commitment, whether that is a person, a job, a home. Commitment is, at the end of the day, making a choice. Life is broad. You start your life with infinite paths laid out in front of you. Inevitably, with every choice, the path narrows. And suddenly, other options disappear.
But every choice enables countless other paths, that may not have been there before. Like a tree with branches, new possibilities can surprisingly grow out of a seemingly dead end.
If life is viewed as a path, we have nothing in our possession to lose to begin with, only to experience. We begin life with nothing, and we only gain as we go along, exchanging time with memories.
What is important to remember, is that most choices are also reversible. Even if you cut off the branch from the tree, a new, different one will eventually grow back. If you are considering learning a new skill, moving to a new city, leaving a situation that makes you unhappy, the only thing that may be holding you back is yourself. But, before turning back, remember to cast a glance forward, towards all the new possibilities that may not have been there before.
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