We each experience life—love, loss, joy, pain—individually, personally, and no one can feel it for us. Friends and/or family can soothe and offer words of comfort or encouragement, but ultimately we have to take whatever it is on— take the risk or not.
For some of us, it takes awhile. We do the same thing over and over and expect it to turn out differently. It doesn’t. The same partner, job, situation, lesson we need to learn keeps showing up in different forms until we finally shift our perspective and try something different.
We take a risk. It’s exciting, scary, and hugely uncomfortable for awhile. But something within us, maybe something that wants to be heard or saved or loved, decides to stop teetering on a precipice and just dive in.
What’s the Payoff?
A psychologist once told me that people do things, whether their actions are destructive or desirable, do so because it satisfies a need. We develop behaviors from both nature and nurture. Challenging and/or changing that behavior is terrifying. As humans we usually gravitate toward the safe, the sure because we believe we have some control.
Ah, but there’s the rub. Just when we are going about our lives, doing the same thing, ignoring those dreams we once had or telling that little voice inside us to be quiet already, something comes along that forces us to take stock and do something different.
When you take a risk, it changes you. You have new resources in which to pull from to take on other challenges. You walk away — nearly always — knowing you are far stronger than you thought. Why do we stop taking risks then? If every time we do, we gain knowledge, become stronger and embrace inevitable change, what keeps us from doing so again? What is it that scares us so much, especially if we have a kind of blueprint in our brains from doing so before?
Is it the work? Is it the uncomfortable feeling of change? Or do we once again, settle into comfortable banality because it’s just so much easier.
Enjoy Yourself. It’s Later Than You Think
Those words are from an old Guy Lombardo tune and have everything to do with the topic at hand here. I’m not sure why we stop taking risks, doing things that challenge or scare us but I’ve listed a few reasons below why I think so.
- We get the thing we think we’ve been wanting.
That may be a relationship, job, move, new house. Whatever it is we’ve been dreaming of for years finally comes to fruition. We dig our heels into a rut because it takes struggle/pain/denial and any and all kind of uncomfortableness to finally, finally get there or here. So we tell ourselves, this is good for now. I’m not risking any more.
- We get older.
Obviously inevitable and once we begin thinking we can’t do this because we’re reached X number of years, our brains really begin to believe this silliness. Once we buy into this, it’s hard to un-process this thought pattern. Really hard.
- We worry that others will think we’re crazy/stupid/selfish and/or insert any other word:
We fear that we’ll upset someone or rock the boat. What if so and so thinks this about me? What will my mother/father/brother/sister/neighbor or WHOMEVER think? When you take a risk, there’s going to be someone who’s not going to like it. They’re going to tell you that you’re being crazy or selfish or stupid. Who needs that, right? (Secret: After a while, no one really cares and they won’t be thinking about you much anyway.)
- We may fail. We may succeed
If we fail at the thing we’ve been dreaming about for years then we we’re not who we thought we were. Then, we have to come up with a new sense of self. Scary. If we don’t ever try, take that risk, we can stay comfortable as it being “out there,” and we’ll get to it one day.
If we succeed, then not only do we have to stay “there,” but we have to maintain it. Maybe that’s why so many stop at the best-seller or a one-hit wonder. Gillian Flynn who wrote Gone Girl said in an interview something like this: There’s never going to be another one of these in me, this one is it. I read Harper Lee said after writing To Kill a Mockingbird: I said all I needed to say and there’s no need to say it again.
- Life gets in the way
This is most likely the biggest excuse. We always think there’s going to be tomorrow or next year. There may not be. I grew up hearing my Dad say, “One of these days..” What if that day doesn’t come?
Maybe taking small risks, building up to bigger ones restores our souls. I’ve led a very interesting life and still do but the old me (and by old, I mean when I was younger and a different me) took way more risks.
I think we need to keep that spirit alive—take a risk, from time to time. I’m beginning to realize that maybe the biggest risk of all is not taking any.
What are some memorable risks you’ve taken and how did it turn out? What risks are you taking now? If you’re not, why not? I’m really interested in hearing why you are or why you aren’t.
Happy Monday everyone.