Sunday, September 25, 2011

On Taking Risks: The thrill of adventure… the agony of defeat

When I sat down to write this post, I had initially started by writing about forgiving ourselves… but what I found was that as much as they are interrelated to one another, forgiving ourselves and taking risks are each topics equally deserving a separate discussion of their own. So here it is… on risk.

Everything in our lives involves varying degrees of risk. In this context, I’m referring to risk as the personal liability we experience as a result of our decisions. The range of risk involved can be anything from making financial decisions, to breaking promises or diets (lol) to sharing personal stuff about ourselves… just to name a few. But in all cases, they involve taking chances – we have to risk something. So, when we decide to get into a new relationship, we risk personal heartache. When we decide to buy that new pair of shoes instead of getting the car fixed, we risk the car breaking down. When we decide to break that diet for a piece of extra dark chocolate, we risk gaining that damn pound we just lost… and so on.

Each day our lives are shaped by decision-making great and small, and with that, comes the risk of exposing ourselves to intended and unintended outcomes – the good, the bad, and the ugly. There is no choice in the outcomes, merely the decision that we make will yield something that may or may not be what we wanted – that’s risk-taking!

Generally, most of us prefer to live with as little risk as possible. Quite frankly, I think it can feel pretty scary for us to intentionally expose ourselves to taking risks outside of our comfort zone. We all tend to have a filter of some sort which gives us the parameters of our risk-taking behaviors. Depending on the context and our previous experiences with like circumstances, our degree of confidence in rendering a decision varies as well. This becomes even trickier when we are dealing with “new territory” situations – situations that are brand new to us and we have no frame of reference of to guide us. How should we think about risk taking in those situations? Go for it or wait and see?

As a single mother, I have found myself preoccupied with thinking about the types and kinds of risks I take at many different levels: there are those associated with my career and future goals; those associated with parenting, and of course, those associated with dating and developing new partnerships. Over the years, I have found that my “risk management” skills has become more skilled in some areas, but still lacking in others, lol. For example, I am much more comfortable in taking risks associated with my own personal growth than I am in regards to forging new love interests.

As I contemplated why the discrepancy, I narrowed it down to my perceived degree of competence in making the right decision. In other words, I am more confident about my ability to do the work associated with personal development than I am about my ability to pick partners who are good for me, lol. Therefore, I am willing to take greater risks in the area of personal growth and perhaps be more conservative in the area of dating…. and then, there are certain things where I just won’t cross the line because the risks do not seem to outweigh the benefits.

With time and life experiences, I have developed more perspective with which to gauge my risk taking. Attempting to explore things from many different angles instead of my own myopic viewpoint, and to stay open, even when I know the associated risks in a given situation are high are two such tactics that I employ.

So what happens when you risk and don’t get the desired results? What do you find yourself doing? Do we engage in a round of self-loathing and close the door to ever trying that again? Do we stay open to trying things again and see what happens? Or do we begin to narrow those parameters of risk exposure, recalibrating and readjusting as we carry on? I am certainly not advocating for constant bad-decision making for the sake of risk-taking. But what I am wondering is the extent to which we ask ourselves about how life’s experiences have influenced us and shaped our willingness to engage in more risk or… perhaps, none at all.

Do we see risks as potential personal liabilities to ourselves, or do we see them as ventures into the realm of possibilities? Maybe it’s about thinking about what’s possible…

There’s a favorite quote that I use as one of my mantras, and it goes like this:
Remember that great love and great achievements involve great risk.”

So here’s to understanding that nothing is possible without some level of risk; and that everything through risk is an opportunity for us to learn about ourselves and others.  


Anonymous said...

'Remember great love and great acheivements require great risks."

Love that quote! It reminds me of one that's a bit cheekier but I often think of: 'She who risks gets to drink champagne.'

'Nothing ventured, nothing gained.'

Yet as writers, aren't we often scared to death to put thoughts out into the hemisphere? And querying? Whoa!

Great post! I'm on shewrites also.

Elizabeth Young said...

I like the 'greats' quote also, it is very true. This is a thought provoking post and I wish you the best as you forge ahead with your writing and following your life goals. She Writes is an awesome community and you will find a great deal of support there.

writerNtraining said...

I love the "she who risks..." hadn't heard that one yet! Glad we could connect via shewrites.

Anonymous said...

Love the post!

That is so true about risks. Putting stuff down on paper and then sending it out into the world (eek!) often feels to me like hanging out your soul to dry. You get used to it, but the feeling is still there.

I hate taking risks, but I know that when I've done them, both in life and writing, I've always grown from the experience. But I also think we all need a safe space - especially if you hanging out your soul to dry! So love is always a tricky one. Still working that one out .....

Juliet :)