One of the deepest fears for many is to lose everything. To be left with only the bare essentials. To own only the clothes on your back and whatever is remains in your pockets.
In many ways, it’s an irrational fear. The vast majority of us will never experience anything like this. If you live in a country with strong social security programs, in theory, this shouldn’t happen.
Nevertheless, it does and the fear persists. It eats away at us in the back of our minds, spurring us on to accumulate more and more money and more possessions to protect against this awful fate.
But is it so awful? Is losing everything such a bad thing? On the contrary, it might be a blessing in disguise. Once you’ve hit rock-bottom the only way is up.
Far from being scared of losing it all we should embrace the opportunity it presents to become resilient. If we imagine the worst that can happen to us and we consider that we can overcome it, from that we will gain strength.
Often, it’s our fear of what may happen that scares us the most. The reality isn’t often as scary as you might think.
Zeno was a wealthy merchant in Ancient Greece. One day, he set out on a voyage between Phoenicia and Peiraeus. Unfortunately for Zeno, his ship sank and with it, his precious cargo.
In an instant, Zeno had gone from being a wealthy merchant to a man with next to nothing. After the incident, he ended up in Athens. While browsing a bookstore he was introduced to the philosophy of Socrates and was introduced to Crates, a famous Cynic philosopher.
Following this introduction, Zeno became a student of Crates and developed his own set of philosophical teachings which became known as Stoicism. Today, Stoicism is more popular than ever but it may never have been brought into existence were it not for Zeno’s ill-fated shipwreck.
While we may not be as lucky as Zeno to fall into the lap of a renowned philosopher during misfortune, we can learn vital lessons from his story. The most pertinent one being that what happens happens, it’s how we respond to it that matters.
Zeno would have been within his rights to wallow over his misfortune. The loss of all his material wealth must have been a jarring experience and most of us could relate to the feelings he must have felt.
Although we do not know the exact circumstances of how Zeno recovered from his dilemma, the fact that he was able to set up a school of philosophy which is still popular to this day speaks volumes.
In the direst straits, he was able to turn his life around and prosper despite his misfortune. How many of us could say we would do the same?
Life is a series of ups and downs. This is the nature of existence. Stability is a myth, recent events are a perfect illustration of this. Anyone that wants to live in a stable world will be disappointed as we live in an inherently chaotic one.
One day you’re the king of the hill, the next you’re at the bottom battered and bruised. The key is to understand how to foster resilience and recover when life throws us a curveball.
When I was living in Barcelona, I opened my bank account one day to see a number staring back at me that I did not expect. I had less than £100 in my account. I thought I had a lot more.
I was shocked by what I saw and terrified. I had never had such a low amount of money in my account before. I was worried about what might happen if I ran out of money if I couldn’t pay my rent.
Thankfully, I was working at the time and didn’t need to worry about money coming in but I had to watch what I spent.
After a few days, the shock of seeing that number on my screen had worn off. While this had been a fear of mine for a while, when it happened it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.
It was probably for the best. Before then, I had been carefree with my finances. I never paid much attention to them. I would go months without looking at my bank account preferring to stick my head in the sand.
This event encouraged me to take greater care of my finances and start managing my money. In short, it was the wake-up call I needed. While not comparable with Zeno’s shipwreck, the response was.
I endeavoured to improve my financial literacy and take greater care of affairs. Zeno desired to live a fuller and more meaningful life in the wake of his shipwreck. The lesson we can learn is that far from being terrifying, events such as these can be life-altering.
They allow us to develop resiliency, to develop a sense of strength that we can overcome whatever obstacle is thrown our way. It’s scary to start afresh because we believe all the previous effort we put in was in vain.
Truth be told, how much would you miss your belongings if they were to disappear tomorrow? Would you mourn them as much as you would a family member who passes? Possessions can be recovered, status can be reasserted, life cannot be restored.
Once it’s gone, it’s gone. What we should fear the most is the misuse of our time rather than the destruction of all that we own. Losing it all is a rare occurrence but it can happen.
Rather than looking at it as a disaster we should reframe the picture and use it as fuel to become more resilient and a better version of yourself.