How to take risks when you’re NOT a risk taker.
On Sunday, while trolling Instagram, I stumbled upon this quote: “The greatest rewards come from risk.” Though this is nothing new, and I’d certainly heard variations on this theme before, for some reason the importance and gravity of it stuck with me.
And then yesterday, after 3 years of pulling angel cards, I reach into my little bowl and pulled out this card, for the first time ever.
DAMN IT. (Though I do like the idea that a “risky” angel activity is whitewater rafting.)
So this is really when I hate the universe and “signs” and all that woo woo stuff.
Because I’m not a risk taker and I know that everything in my current life is calling me towards it.
Intellectually, I can get down with the idea of risk. I read Brene Brown and Seth Godin. I know that our capacity for love, work, connection, creativity, strength, for anything, really, is only as big as our willingness to risk heartbreak and disappointment. I know that if I don’t risk there is no reward (and damn have I been known to want that reward) and I also know that engaging in risk means I’m living full out. Full on. That I’m resilient and know that even if things don’t work out, I’ll be OK.
Risk is scary because though we understand it’s a key to living an awakened, engaged life, we also have a true affinity for safety.
For those of us who dig safety and also crave the rewards risk provides, we’re caught in a bind. We want to feel the soft edge of our safety net while simultaneously inching towards something brave and new.
We want the rush, the excitement, the thrill of jumping without ever leaving the ground.
Unfortunately for us non-risk takers, it doesn’t work that way. To have that incredible sense of flying, we have to jump out of the nest. We have to risk not flying to see if we can.
And we avoid risk, not because we’re afraid of the outcome necessarily, but because no matter what happens, good or bad, risk makes us feel things we just don’t want to FEEL.
Risk makes us face BIG emotions that take us far out of our comfort zone. It removes us from the safety of “happy enough” or mildly discontent to ecstatic joy or utter devastation.
What we’re really saying when we risk is: “I choose to feel. I choose to experience the feelings that will most certainly arise in getting, or not getting, what my heart desires.”
I remember, sitting at my therapist’s office after a big breakthrough session on this exactly topic and through swollen eyes said, “How does anyone get anything DONE when they’re feeling all the time?” She gently smiled at me and said, “You get used to it.”
And to consciously feel is no small thing. It’s incredibly vulnerable to feel loss or disappointment or shame. And we’re just as vulnerable when we feel ecstatically happy or fall head over heels in love. Why? Because by having those heart-fluttering emotions we’re risking the eventual loss of them.
And yet our souls are called to risk, to experience the full range of what life has to offer, which promises we are bound to meet uncomfortable feelings eventually.
So here’s what I’ve come to understand about feelings.
If we allow them to exist, if we let ourselves feel them all, let them wash over us without becoming them (the difference between I’m feeling sad and I am sad), the feelings eventually dissipate, like a wave smoothing out on the shore.
Feelings, like angry 2 year olds, only get louder when we ignore them. And so the practice becomes allowing the feelings prompted by risk to exist, to acknowledge and accept them without identifying with them.
And it’s in that practice, that we find more capacity to face risk.
As for me, what that damned angel card made me realize is I want to fly more than I want to stay safe in the nest. That I want to say YES to growth, love, expression, connection, and sharing more than I want to say NO to conflict, pain, fear or rejection. That I’m willing to risk FEELING for the possibility of being all of me, heart opened and fully present.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Looks like I’m headed in that direction. Join me.
Lots of love,
P.S. This post was first a journal entry, a wild musing on experiencing the risks that come up when we feel the pull to stretch beyond ourselves. If you too have been on the cusp of yourself, feeling ready to dig in and scared of the risk, join me for Just F*cking Journal beginning October 12, 2015. During our time together you’ll receive accountability and support for all that you’re writing uncovers. If you’re down, be sure to sign up here.
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