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7 Signs That You're Too Cautious

You have few regrets and 90 percent of what you try succeeds.

Key points

  • Those who get a response from almost everyone they reach out to likely don't take enough interpersonal risks.
  • A very cautious person may not regret much in their recent past because they still think what they didn't do was "too risky."
  • While being a risk-taker or very adventurous tends to be glorified in society, cautious people still contribute a great deal.
Unsplash/Jaroslav Devia
Source: Unsplash/Jaroslav Devia

Caution is a great strength, but too much caution can hold you back. Try this checklist to reflect on whether you may be too cautious.

1. Over 90 percent of what you try works out.

You're probably not trying enough that has the potential of not working. You don't experiment enough.

2. Over 90 percent of the people you reach out to respond to you.

You're probably not taking enough interpersonal risks. Research shows we often underestimate how much others would like to hear from us.

3. You don't regret anything you have done in the past six months.

You thought through and researched everything so carefully, you don't regret anything you pursued. However, this can be very draining and time-consuming if it wasn't always necessary. Over-researching and overthinking have an opportunity cost.

4. You get great suggestions or advice but don't take it. This happens over 30 percent of the time you get great advice or suggestions.

You're so tentative that you perhaps invent reasons why you can't or shouldn't act on good ideas or advice, even when it would be very helpful to you.

5. You always choose more muted versions of what you would actually prefer.

For example, you'd like to wear a brighter color, order a more adventurous dinner choice, or choose a less common baby name. However, you talk yourself out of it and go with a safer choice. In scenarios in which your tastes do tend to be more adventurous, this results in rarely choosing what you most want.

6. You don't regret much you haven't done in the recent past.

This point may seem counterintuitive. If you're too cautious, wouldn't you regret a lot you hadn't done? Maybe, but a very cautious person may also very easily think of reasons why things they didn't do were risky or had downsides, and may not have worked out well anyway. You might think back, "Wow I dodged a bullet there" without actually knowing if that were the case.

When a lot of time has lapsed, your perception of those risks might change to the point that you do regret not doing things in the more distant past.

7. Few people seem as cautious as you are.

Even in large groups of say 40-100 people (e.g., teams or groups of colleagues), you're usually the most cautious person.


  • The numbers given throughout this post are intended to stimulate your thinking and are somewhat arbitrary. For example, if 99 percent of the things you try work out, that's a very strong sign you're too cautious. If it were 70 percent, that's a potential sign of being moderately too cautious. It should be fairly obvious how to assess where you fall.
  • Being cautious is an important strength. Being a risk-taker or very adventurous tends to be glorified in our society, but cautious people contribute a great deal. Use this post to consider when being too cautious might hold you back, but also recognize it as a true strength, one that is probably under-appreciated by those around you.

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