Chicken Little Syndrome

Fellow Riskologist,

Have you ever read a news story online and thought to yourself, “Well that’s too bad,” and then went on to read the comments on that article and revised your opinion to, “Oh my God, the world is going to end any second now!”?

This is called Chicken Little Syndrome (The sky is falling!), and humans are, unfortunately, very adept at employing it. When an unfortunate but isolated mishap occurs, it’s easy to let your imagination run wild with all the possible causes and eventual consequences that will lead to Doom. DOOM!

It might be funny (or disheartening—depends on your mood) to watch others do it, but sometimes you may find yourself doing the same.

If you’re dedicated to taking bigger and better risks in your life, it’s probably best to find a way to keep the Chicken Littles of the world at bay and away from your most important work.

Avoid the awfulizers who say things like:

  • What you’re doing can never work.
  • If everyone lived like you, society would collapse.
  • If something goes wrong, you’ll be ruined.

As you experiment with new and different ideas, you’ll get much further by surrounding yourself with people who support you and your lifestyle choices.

Yes, it’s useful to have people who can offer you constructive criticism, but it’s also easy to tell the difference between constructive criticizers who help you become better, and the Chicken Littles interested only in beating you back into the status quo.

And just as important as the Chicken Littles who take small misunderstandings and turn them into apocalypses, be on the lookout for those who ignore big problems for their own convenience—the ostriches with their heads in the sand.

If it’s bad to exaggerate small problems, then it’s worse to ignore big ones. If you believe something in your life is truly wrong, it’s your duty to try to fix it. You’ll soon learn who’s there to support you and who’s threatened by change and willing to exaggerate in the other direction—”Oh it’s not that bad. Just forget about it.” You can practically hear the kerthunk as their heads dive into the sand.

Yes, it is that bad! Don’t forget about it; change it!

Your short journey through life is a balancing act. Be open, be honest, try new things that might not work, fix old things that are broken. It’ll take you far. And when an acorn falls on your head, stop for a second to ask yourself: “Is the sky really falling, or am I standing under an oak tree?”

If someone else tries to tell you the sky is falling, take a look above their head, too. What’s motivating that fear? Is it justified, or did they, too, not see the little acorn falling from the tree.

Most of the time, you’ll find it’s the latter. Move a little to the side and carry on with life.

Yours in risk-taking,