Holding On Can Hold You Back

The sting of loss often remains with us longer than the joy of gain.

“Every nut the squirrel hoards is another it’s afraid to lose.” — Marty Rubin

We have such a hard time letting go.

Material possessions, bad relationships and ineffective habits lead the way. The more we accumulate and the greater the magnitude, the more difficulty we face in letting go and moving on. Like large bodies in physics, the gravitational pull is irresistible.

Loss is rooted in fear. We are compelled to protect our lives and the things we value most.

We all have a cognitive bias against losing. Loss aversion often directs us unconsciously in ways detrimental to our personal growth. Risk averse individuals are more prone to this form of bias.

Consider the following examples:

  • The death of a loved one is often devastating.

  • The first scratch on a new car is almost unbearable.

  • We feel a hit to our stock portfolio more than a net gain.

  • We obsess over getting berated while praise languishes.

Besides becoming a featured guest on the show Hoarders, the most notable effect of loss aversion is an inability to move forward. Letting go is difficult. Moving forward is unthinkable.

How do we counter it?

As with any bias, the first step is awareness. Once we understand the power loss has over us, we can remain vigilant for it in day-to-day life. If we feel a resistance to moving on, loss aversion is a likely culprit.

Another useful weapon against loss aversion is prioritizing the meaningful things in our lives. Once we list them, everything else is put in proper perspective. It is easier to let go when someone or something detracts from what is meaningful.

Some of us are more sensitive to loss aversion than others, but even slightly more sensitivity to a loss over a gain can tip the scales against the future you. Be on guard!


🤔 Food for Thought:

Can you identify examples of loss aversion in your own life?

How does being aware of it help you see it more objectively?

How is it holding you back?


⚙️ One Small Step:

Make a list of what is most meaningful in your life. Post it in a place you will see often. Less meaningful things should be easier to let go when compared against this list. Think about what you gain instead of what you lose.