Are you finding yourself indulging in instant pleasures every time? Are you easily swayed by junk food, video games, booze? You'll find that these pleasures are keeping you from doing the work on yourself and becoming better.
However, you can actually change the way you think so that you WANT to do the work that improves your life, helps you make progress toward your goals, and gets you closer to being the man you want to be.
This principle is called loss aversion, and it is ingrained in every human being. Right now however you are getting destroyed by this principle because of its immense power. I will show you how you can control this power and use it positively.
What is loss aversion?
Let's start by explaining what the principle of loss aversion exactly is and why humans continually operate on this principle.
Well, loss aversion is the principle of fearing loss more than desiring gain. In other words, the fear we have of losing something outweighs our desire to gain something. This is why we find it more important not to lose something, than to gain something of equal value.
All of this becomes more apparent when we look at it from an evolutionary perspective.
Back in the olden days, losing something you had meant risking death, you could severely impede your chances of survival if you lost something of value compared to gaining something you wanted. Something you desired would give you the same chances of survival you already had in that situation, losing something would not.
Losing food could mean you’d starve to death, so you needed to keep all of the food you had in your possession because otherwise having enough food in time would be a mission impossible.
Losing a blanket you had could mean dying of hypothermia because of the staggering cold at night.
It wasn’t just about not losing something because you would have liked to keep it, but it could mean death if you would lose just one of the recourses you had. This principle is still ingrained in us and therefore you can still notice its effects today, but in a different form.
Today we just don’t like losing anything we already possess, and most of these things we are trying to hold on to are not even helping our chances of survival at all.
We want to keep our comfortable lifestyle and are not willing to give anything up in the short term in exchange for huge gains long term.
Because of this, the principle leaves most people static, they stay in the same position they’re in for a longer period, or for life. There is a great saying for this:
“If you’re not growing, you’re dying.”
It applies perfectly to how people use this principle in today's society. What this sentence is actually saying is that there is no such thing as staying stagnant, you are either growing or you’re dying, staying still is not a possibility, and you can see this all around you. The people who are scared to lose some of their comforts and are not willing to sacrifice for their future, what do you see happening to them over time? They get depressed, are disappointed in themselves, and are upset about life. You see these people slowly decaying over time. They are DYING, they are not staying stagnant, although they may think they are.
There is no such thing as being able to stay in the same place for an extended period of time. To counteract this decay from happening you have to grow, but you cannot do this without sacrificing comfort.
Most people are dying because of the principle of loss aversion, by trying to not lose the comfortable situation they have at the moment, but this is not the only way it could be used. It can be used in a very positive way and force yourself to grow, all you need for this is a change of perspective. After that, it's easy.
How does perspective work?
The way to use loss aversion in a positive direction and use it to grow is by shifting your perspective and changing the way you look at things.
There is a perfect example that illustrates this beautifully from the book ‘Influence’ by Robert Cialdini (great read).
A divorce lawyer was trying to convince a couple to sign their divorce papers so that they could close the deal for their divorce.
But she had issues closing these deals, the man or woman would decline the deal she had prepared and refuse to sign it, while the other person had already signed.
The interesting thing is that she had a significantly higher closing rate once she phrased her close differently. At first, she said: “Okay sign here right now and we’ve got a deal.”
This way she framed it as a gain for the person who would sign, they would gain a good deal if they signed.
You wouldn’t think there would be anything wrong with that, so how would she be able to alter this statement to where more people would agree to sign?
Well, she did this by using the principle of loss aversion to her advantage.
Instead of saying the previous line, which was perceived as a gain, she flipped it and made the person perceive it as a loss if they didn’t sign.
Now she said: “We’ve got a deal, you only have to sign here to make it official!”
Now the person who had to sign perceived not signing as a loss for them. They already had a deal, and if they didn’t sign they would lose it. Her closing rate went up massively after making this little change in her close, that's how powerful perspective is. It may sound stupid, but changing someone's perspective on things with words really works, and you can apply this change in perspective to your own way of thinking by looking differently at your goals.
Let me tell you exactly how to do this.
Shifting your perspective
So how do you shift your own perspective to where you could use the principle of loss aversion to grow, improve yourself and become better instead of letting it destroy you?
You can do this by simply framing things differently in your mind, like this:
Think about already having that thing you want, already being the person you want to be, and if you don’t do the work right now you will take that thing away from your future self.
You lose what you could’ve had.
Think of how much you can be, and will be if you give it everything you have right now and view the thing you would achieve as something you’d lose if you didn’t put in the work today.
Make not doing the work that you need to do to achieve the things you want to achieve feel like a loss to your future self. Feel like you’ve already accomplished what you want to accomplish, and everything you’re not doing that needs to be done to achieve this is taking something away from your future self. You are losing something.
By using the loss aversion principle this way and shifting your perspective on life and loss, you won’t have to get into the negative spiral that people tend to call stagnation (or what it actually is: death). Because there is no stagnation, you can’t remain in the same place.
You’re either growing, or you're dying.
You can only choose one or the other, the choice is yours.
“People are intensely motivated to make choices designed to avoid losing something of value - to a much greater extent than choices designed to obtain that thing.” ~ Robert Cialdini