I’m always promoting and talking about setting goals and moving forward, but there are a couple of other natural human behaviors which are just as powerful, helpful and might be more influential with you, depending on your personality.
We all hate losses and we all participate in some type of loss aversion and loss avoidance. Loss aversion is more in your thinking and loss avoidance is more in your behavior. Both are more prevalent in your life than you may realize. Insurance is a perfect example. You insure valuables (your car, home, health, life) to protect against a loss that you may or may not incur. (Other than dying which is inevitable—but you won’t be collecting on your life insurance.)
When you’re drunk or genked up you don’t have that same sense of loss aversion because your mind and thinking are altered. Drunken wishful thinking rules the day (or evening). “I’ll be fine. I can drive. I won’t get pulled over or get into an accident.” You’re not thinking clearly of what you can lose. When you’re drunk you’re not worried about losing anything, or maybe that’s why you are getting drunk—to forget about your losses?
It hurts to lose, it even hurts to see missed gains because they feel like losses. Any of you who have ever owned stock or some other investment like real-estate or collectables can relate to this. Let’s say you buy a stock for $8.00 a share and sell it for $9.00 a share. You feel great because you made money! But then you see that what you just sold continues to go up and all of a sudden it’s at $9.10. You feel like you lost. You missed out on .10 cents—and that perceived loss emotion overrides they joy of gaining $1.00. It’s crazy but that’s how it is. In my line of work I deal with this all the time.
Then your memory stores how you felt about the loss (not the actual amount of money you gained but the perceived loss of a dime) and that influences your behavior in the future. So you get greedy with the next investment and it goes up, but you’re greedy and wait. Suddenly it tanks and you’re down $1.00 per share. Your gut churns and you feel like crap. “Oh, why didn’t I sell when it was up?” But the fact is that you haven’t really lost anything (if you haven’t actually sold it at a loss). But the feeling of loss is very powerful. What you feel is often more powerful than what you experience.
Because we hate to lose we often hang on to things too long or simply never let go. This isn’t just investments—this includes friendships, relationships, jobs, beliefs and habits. Sometimes it does eventually pay-off to hang on to a losing situation, things can turn around. And that’s another type of loss aversion—hanging on to something—because mentally it’s not really a loss until it’s actually gone. (Why do you think guys like me keep stuff in our fridge way beyond its expiration date? I’m not lazy or think that I’ll eat it; I just want to wait until the Blue Cheese salad dressing is actually green before I throw it out. That’s loss aversion.) But deciding on when it’s time to “cut your losses” is a personal decision. Cutting losses often frees you to move in a new direction, but that new direction may not be any better than the old direction. I believe that it’s worth careful deliberation when thinking about “cutting your losses,” especially when it’s with friendships, a relationship, a job or moving.
In hindsight I can see all that I have lost because of my drinking (or at least I can see most losses—some losses will never be apparent to me). But now that I’ve been using my sober clarity of mind in the process of goal setting and reward techniques to rebuild my life, I don’t want to lose anything. Loss aversion keeps me from putting myself in dangerous situations where I could easily crack and lose what I have gained. I have a fear of loss if I were to start drinking and this is a good type of fear for me.
How do people deal with the fear of loss? As I mentioned earlier, insurance is one way. But the easiest way is to simply stay away from things. Some of you have been burnt by investments or hurt by certain habits or people—so you stay away from them. I stay away from booze, drugs, volatile investments and unstable people. I may be missing out on some fun or potential gains, but my loss aversion helps me play it safe, avoid losses and ultimately maintain my sobriety.
When it comes to maintaining your sobriety or just deciding to start on your sober journey, rewards and all you’ll gain are great to keep in mind, but loss aversion and loss avoidance may be just the thing for you. Gains are uncertain, but losses can be counted on. If you drink and drive you can count on something bad happening. You can count on losing your driver’s license. I lost my driving privileges for six months and I never want to lose them again so I don’t drink. If you keep drinking you can count on degrading health. You can almost count on bad shit eventually happening.
Sobriety doesn’t guarantee that you will gain or regain anything, but it will help you avoid losses. The fear of loss is normal so why not use it to your advantage in maintaining or starting your journey of sobriety?
Remember that these are my own opinions and observations. Think for yourself and come to your own conclusions. If you enjoy this stuff or get something out of it please tell your friends about my website. It’s LivingSoberSucks.com. If you like what I do and what I write about, you can help me pay for all this by making a donation to my site securely through PayPal: http://www.livingsobersucks.com/donate_to_this_site Donations are NOT tax deductible.