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On your deathbed, you will not say, “Whew, I am so glad I never tried skydiving!” You are much more likely to say, “I wish that I had backpacked Italy when I had the chance,” or “I wish I had the courage to open that fly fishing shop I dreamt about.”

Looking back on your life, you are much more likely to regret not doing something, than taking the leap of faith-or risk, no matter what the outcome. Things we have actually tried rarely disappoint us. Often, we know what it is that we would like to do, but we are scared of trying to do it. Why is it that we are so much more comfortable with the status quo?

We are hardwired to be risk averse. Hundreds of years ago, we had to avoid doing risky things to stay alive. We would not have dared to hunt wild boars alone for fear of being killed. It made sense to be risk avoidant. That same hard wiring remains in our brains today, despite our environments having changed dramatically.

When we think about taking the leap, research shows that we tend to overestimate the likelihood of something going wrong. Potential losses tend to weigh heavily on our minds, while the potential gains are often ignored.

Additionally, we exaggerate the impact of negative consequences if something were indeed to go wrong. We create worst-case scenarios and watch them like a movie in our mind’s eye. We fail to think that we can handle bad situations, and ignore the fact that if something started to go south, we could correct it before a larger problem ensued.

We also underestimate our ability to cope when something does not go just right. We think that failing at a new endeavor would crush us. That we simply could not go on if we took a risk and did not succeed.

We also ignore the cost of playing it safe, and sticking to everyday norms. We come up with excuses to stay at home and not take risks, big or small. Not making ourselves vulnerable seems easy and uncomplicated, but it tends to make our lives smaller rather than larger and more fulfilled.

I challenge you to fear regret more than failure by taking braver, more daring risks! Remember that your brain is wired to catastrophize the possible risks and underestimate the gains of living a fearless, bold life. Know that you can handle problems, if they come up. Celebrate your victories, and learn from your mistakes. Lay on your deathbed with no regrets at all knowing that you took the leap.

“When you take risks you learn that there will be times when you succeed and there will be times when you fail, and both are equally important.”
― Ellen DeGeneres

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