How often in life do we end up doing (or avoiding) something out of fear? And not just any fear, but irrational fear.

A friend could have statistics showing he’s more likely to die in a car than on an airplane. Yet, he’s deathly afraid of flying but has no problem with a cross-country road trip. Another friend may be worried sick about what others are saying about her, and yet they may not be talking about her at all. In fact, she hasn’t crossed their minds once.

Fear can lead us to underestimate the possibilities, and overestimate potential danger. It can cause us to forget what could go right, and fixate on what could go wrong. We end up spending a lot of mental bandwidth worrying about things not worth worrying about: things that in all likelihood will never take place.

This doesn’t mean we should be oblivious to potential dangers or pitfalls, physical or otherwise. But that’s different than being paranoid. It means assessing the situation rationally and not emotionally. Otherwise, fear can both hijack our thoughts today, and drive us to live in ways we’ll one day regret.