It is not just our bodies that are a result of evolution. Likewise, it is also our minds and our psychology that have been shaped by the world that we evolved in and that is where a lot of our most unusual behaviors come from.
When we were evolving, we were in far more dangerous scenarios than we are now and we could never afford to take risks. Only the psychological traits that made us most likely to survive were passed on from one person to another and that means that they're the only ones that matter.
This is why we are risk averse by nature and it is also - unfortunately - why we spend a lot of our time experiencing chronic stress.
The Danger of Ambiguity
Imagine that you were in the wild, looking at the silhouette of some kind of animal sitting on the horizon. You don't know if that silhouette is of a lion or some kind of kitten - what do you do?
The most pertinent solution in order to survive is to assume the worst. Assume it's a lion and either freeze or run. The people who take chances would be the most likely to get eaten and thus not pass on their personality traits!
But the problem is that we don't see lions any more. This is not the biggest threat to your life right now. Instead, the biggest stressors are things like debt, illness, relationship problems and career issues. These are the threats we face that are the stand-ins for the lions and that we now must try and overcome if we're going to be successful in life.
And unfortunately, we still have that tendency to assume the worst!
It's All About Perspective
But here's the thing: it's actually all about perspective and it's all about mindset when it comes to our reaction to threats. If we think it's a kitten, then we will be able to remain cool, calm and happy even if it is a metaphorical lion.
In other words, it pays for us to reassess our situations and to take control of our anxiety and our stress. When we can do that, then we can remove the chronic anxiety that makes us perform worse and feel worse.
How do you turn your situations into kittens? Simple: you assess exactly why you're afraid and whether or not there really is a good reason for you to be. Likewise, you can look at contingency plans and coping mechanisms. Remember: it's all just perspective. Change your mindset and you change the reality!
Just as an added note here, sometimes when we see lions everywhere we look, it could be a real chemical or psychological issue — if you have clinical anxiety or depression, just deciding to see kittens instead of lions may not be enough. At no point would I suggest mindset is the ONLY option. If you suffer from any of those mental illnesses, you may need to seek a professional’s help to deal with them. But at the same time, once you start on the road to recovery, changing your mindset can be one of the tools you pull out of your toolkit to help you see more kittens where there were once only lions!