First, a caveat:
When I say that taking risks is the key to a happy life I mean considered risks, not rash or impulsive ones.
Having said that, there are two types of risks – physical and emotional.
Of the two, emotional risks are the ones that feel much scarier.
But first, physical risks. Here again, there are the considered risks and the rash ones. In my opinion, acceptable physical risks could include parachute jumping although there’s not enough money in the whole world that would get me to do this. But paragliding was just fabulous.
Unacceptable physical risks include not looking where you’re going or crossing the street while checking your emails, not paying attention in the kitchen where you can cut or burn yourself, walking up and down the stairs while not paying attention and so on.
I’m sure there are more examples but that’s not what I want to write about. I want to write about emotional risks.
Why do I say that taking risks is the key to a happy life? And what kind of risks am I referring to?
I’m referring to emotional risks, the ones that make us break out in a cold sweat just thinking of it.
The thing that marks out emotional risks is fear – fear of the unknown, fear of rejection, fear of ridicule, fear of failure, fear of blame, fear of being perceived as selfish and especially fear of not being good enough.
I have to confess, I’m more intimately acquainted with fear than I would like to be.
It was fear (mostly) that kept me in my marriage for 37 long unhappy years.
It was fear that kept me in a job where I was being bullied because I believed nobody would ever hire me again.
It was fear that kept me hidden behind far too many masks – pretending I was happy when I wasn’t, that I could handle something when I didn’t, that I was confident when I was scared.
But the worst fear of all was allowing others to see me.
I was convinced that, if they saw the real me, they would run away screaming.
It was with my life coach Alan’s support and encouragement that I began to take risks.
When ‘life’ happened, e.g. being made redundant while Jim, my ex-husband, was already unemployed, leaving my marriage and having to learn to fend for myself – were blessings in disguise.
I was forced into situations where I had to dig deep within myself to access my courage and deal with situations that were unfamiliar to me.
Eventually, there came a time where I began to initiate change in really scary circumstances.
The main one was leaving the Institute of Directors where I’d worked for over 7 years in order to follow my heart.
That meant giving up a well-paying job for the unknown. It took me a year before I finally dared take that step.
But the biggest risk of all was to make myself emotionally vulnerable when I’d always been a ‘hero’ – never asking for help, pretending I could handle everything, coming across as someone who didn’t need anybody. I truly believed that that would make me appealing because I was convinced that the last thing anybody wanted was someone who was needy and demanding.
How wrong I was! I was shocked when I discovered that that was how I’d kept love at bay!
The latest risk I took was allowing myself to be loved.
Sounds strange, doesn’t it?
From the beginning, when Dave and I first got together he wanted to show his love by doing things for me, things that I’d been doing for myself for the last 10 years.
At first, letting him do these things felt a little like losing a part of myself.
But, luckily, I finally learned the difference between being dependent (clingy), independent and now inter-dependent, where we’re there for each other.
Now I love and appreciate everything he does for me but this was something I had to learn.
So how is my belief that taking risks is the key to a happy life turning out?
It turned out that allowing Dave to see my ‘warts’ and vulnerabilities make him love me even more! Go figure.
So here’s my question for you.
If you knew you had nothing to lose, what would you do differently?