mina asks: Lately I’ve been struggling about making decisions. Why do people aim for something impossible? Is it always worth a try? Despite the fact that you clearly don’t have a chance to win? Are risks really worth doing, just to make yourself happy?
Hi mina –
What a great question!
I live in this question all the time. You see, if I’m lying in wait for squirrels, and one shows up, I face a gamble. If I run to it and catch it, then that’s great, I win. But if I run and miss it, I’ve just notified it and every other squirrel around that I’m here and on the hunt. I would have been way better off staying hidden and waiting till one comes closer to me. But often, none does come close to me, so I’d have been better off trying to catch that first one, right?
Auugh! It’s really confusing!
So my solution to your question, “Is it always worth a try,” is to… simply not ask it!
Let me explain.
If something’s easily achievable (like, say, my eating the dinner Handsome puts out for me every night), then there’s no reason not to go for it, of course.
And if something’s absolutely impossible to achieve (say, my catching a bird that’s flying twenty feet above my head), then there’s no reason to try, except just for fun, the way puppies just love to run for no reason at all.
But if it’s in-between, like with those squirrels? Then the question becomes, not “Is it always worth a try,” but rather one of
Now my doggy brain can’t remotely do the kind of math that you can, but even I can compute some sorts of questions: Do I have any chance of catching that squirrel? What would I lose by trying? How close does that squirrel have to be for me to have a chance of catching her? How hungry am I? If I try and fail, how long will I have to wait to get another chance?
Now you ask another couple of questions later on. About trying “the impossible,” when “you clearly don’t have a chance to win.” With those, my question to you would be “What do I gain by trying?” For example, let’s say my Handsome, who likes playing tennis but isn’t all that great, got a chance to play a match against the great Roger Federer. Would he have any hope of winning? Of course not. Would he take the opportunity? Wow, would he! He’d be thrilled, and he’d brag for the rest of his days “I PLAYED ROGER FEDERER!” (Oh heaven help me, he’d never shut up about it!) So the risk, for him, would really be zero, and his hopes of winning, even less! And he’d love it.
Another version of this is playing a lottery. Handsome is happy to do it, because he knows his chances of winning are nearly zero, but the money he gives goes to help schools, which he believes in a lot. And if he should win, he’d suddenly be very very rich, which of course he’d enjoy! See, again, although his odds of winning are poor, he’s happy to do it.
But let’s ask another version. What if he was asked to play tennis against Roger Federer, but on a bet, where if he lost he’d have to give me away? NO WAY would he do it, he’d never take that chance! (In fact, he just told me, he wouldn’t even take that bet against a far worse player – he’d take NO chance on losing me!)
So do you see where I’m going? There’s no sense in playing when “you don’t have a chance to win,” but maybe what you win isn’t the same way others see it. So maybe when it comes to kissing that person you’re crazy about, it’s worth it to run up, kiss them, and run away, knowing that’s no way to get them to marry you, but you’ll get that kiss you’ve always wanted. But maybe it’s not if that’d get you arrested for assault!
It’s all about risk and reward, or, again, Risk Assessment.
Without taking some risks, you’re not really living your life. And taking dumb risks without reward is throwing your life away.
Somewhere in between them is just right. Only you can decide where that is. But in there lie love, wealth… and squirrels!
All my best,