“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.” ~ Steve Jobs
Do you wish you were bolder? Do you wish you could talk easily to strangers, experiment with fashion, get out on the dance floor, or try activities that pushed you out of your comfort zone? For a long time, I did.
Then a few years ago, something inside me changed. I found that I could do all those things—and a few more—with so much ease that I stunned myself. And it began when my marriage ended.
Nothing to lose, and everything to gain.
I died a little death after my divorce. The person I was closest to for over a third of my existence was no longer a part of it. A decade worth of my dreams were suddenly meaningless. And the life I had put so much energy, love, and hope into building—my life—had literally evaporated overnight. So, for some time after my divorce, I felt like I had lost everything.
It wasn’t true of course. Despite the loss of my marriage, I knew I was lucky. I had a loving family, caring friends, good health, a job, and a nice place to live. And I was deeply grateful for those things.
Yet, somewhere deep inside, I felt like I had indeed lost everything. And that I had nothing left to lose. The worst that could happen in any situation was that I would stay where I was. And any change would only be a gain. So life was a series of opportunities with “nothing to lose, and everything to gain.”
I found myself returning to that phrase whenever I was faced with stepping out of my comfort zone. And as a result, I did things I wouldn’t normally have done.
I attended events I wouldn’t have attended otherwise. I spoke freely to strangers and made new friends. I took trips I wouldn’t have felt comfortable taking. I danced when I was the only person on the dance floor. And on and on.
But my boldness was restrained. I limited it to my personal (as distinguished from professional) life. I used common sense. I stayed safe. And I never went against my beliefs of what was good for me and what wasn’t. As a result, a new and bolder “me” was born.
What we have to lose.
Feeling like I had nothing to lose made me bolder. But notwithstanding our safety, why aren’t we typically bolder? What do we have to lose?
The answer is “our egos.” Our ego is our sense of self derived from our interaction with the world. The more positive that interaction, the more positive our sense of self. The less positive that interaction, the less positive our sense of self. We are on a constant (but unconscious) mission to build up our egos, and to prevent them from diminishing.
Eckhart Tolle calls the latter the fear of “ego loss” (see, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, by Eckhart Tolle). When we are bold, we risk rejection, looking foolish, or failure (among other things). We risk diminishing our egos. We risk “ego loss.” And that seems like a risk not worth taking.
No reason not to.
Except, it is. Because it is not a risk at all. Our egos are constructs of our minds. They are relevant only as long as we pay attention to them.
Underneath the noise of the ego, we are valuable beings. We are perfect in our unique ways. And regardless of our interactions with the world, or what others think of us, we are worthy of love and respect. We cannot be diminished. So “ego loss” is irrelevant. We truly have nothing to lose. And we have no reason not to be bold.