The Power of Fear

Yesterday, I overheard a conversation at the airport between a husband and wife of a young family. The husband asked his wife: “Should we board?  We can board at any time since we have young kinds”  The wife responded: “Yeah, but I thought we could board when it was our turn”.  The husband quickly retorted: “There probably won’t be any overhead space…”  The wife quickly acquiesced and they went to board.

Fear of losing out is an incredibly strong motivator. The natural inclination most of us have is to not take any special privileges for ourselves over our peers even when we have the right.  However, if fear is introduced, whether it’s rational or not, we suddenly clamor for whatever we can get.

Fear has the power to make us selfish and is the source behind most tragedy of the commons-type problems. Whether it’s overhead space in an airplane, overgrazing a shared field, or everyone pulling money out of the banking system causing it’s collapse, the very problems we fear can often occur because we took actions stemming from that fear.

All of this made me wonder how often I’m motivated to take actions out of a rational or irrational fear. How often do you make decisions you otherwise wouldn’t out of fear?






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