Their story made me wonder if emotional safety nets are reasonable? And how do we best use them? The purpose of these nets is to create a safe place to land if we fall. Good examples might include:
- Saving enough money to quit your job
- Making sure you understand what you and your partner want out of life before committing for life
- Nurturing relationships with family and friends who will support you when you succeed and when you fail
So, yes, it’s reasonable to create a safety net. They allow us to take chances because we feel safe knowing even if we fall, we have a soft place to land.
But how do we know the difference between a good and a bad safety net? We’re so good at convincing ourselves that we’re making smart decisions, especially when we can back up our choices with a “better safe than sorry” mentality. We sometimes use safety nets like a blanket, wrapping ourselves inside safe and warm, tangled up in our own fear of falling.
And by falling, we mean failing, right? For example, we might stay in a job or relationship that isn’t satisfying because we’ve convinced ourselves we can’t do better. We’re afraid that if we try, we’ll fail.
That’s not a safety net. That’s not even playing it safe. It’s something much more destructive than just being afraid to fail – we are creating an environment that ensures we’ll fail before we even try.
I’m more afraid of being safe than I am sorry, more afraid of not learning from my failures than I am of failing. I have a deep fear that when I’m old, I’ll look back on my life and think: “Meh.”
We’ve all read some Internet version of the top five regrets of the dying from Bronnie Wares book. If you haven’t, the moral of this book is to live your life fully, and it hits me right in the gut each time I read it.
So this is the question I ask myself when making a tough decision: “Will I regret it when I’m 92?” And the answer is almost always no. Of course I won’t know if I’m right for another 52 years, but at least it’ll be a good conversation. Or I’ll be dead. Either way I hope there’s wine.