I’ve always had a tendency to play it safe. For many years, there were lots of things I liked the idea of doing, but the effort required go outside my comfort zone stopped me.
When I sat and thought about the risks involved and all the what-ifs associated, I always wimped out.
So this left me conforming to the norm, living a life others expected of me and generally putting my dreams on hold so that I could remain safe and comfortable. Except it wasn’t comfortable, I was unhappy and deeply unfulfilled and only when the cost of standing still exceed the cost of change did I finally get more comfortable with the idea of taking the risk and heading into the unknown.
I left a long-term relationship that I’d outgrown, I quit my soul-crushing corporate job and I traveled overseas on my own to see the world and learn about facing risks.
The risk of leaving a secure relationship and being on my own for the first time in many years filled me with doubt—what if this was as good as it got? What if I end up single forever? I’m getting older now, all my friends have settled down and started families, maybe I’ll get left on the shelf?
One of the most difficult things was the risk I took turning my back on an 11-year career, a well-paying job without any qualifications to do anything else. I ran the risk of running out of money, being unemployed and becoming homeless. It had been the security of my 9 to 5 pay check that kept me stuck in a job I didn’t enjoy for many years, scared of exactly these risks.
But I took the risk, I spent a year doing what I loved, I trained to be a yoga teacher, travelled, wrote a book and fueled my passions. I created a life I loved and whilst it wasn’t always rosy, I wouldn’t go back and change it.
As with all aspects of life, the rough comes with the smooth. Those risks I was fearful of, some came true: I ran out of money, I couldn’t find employment and I spent a few months pet sitting because I was homeless and couldn’t afford rent.
So now, a couple of years down the track, you’d think I’d be used to taking risks, having faced the music, navigated the tough times and still remained happy. Surely risk taking is now within my comfort zone? Not so much.
For the first time in many years I find myself falling in love again, and the risk monster has reared its head and with it all sorts of fears I was sure I’d overcome previously. It appears that the risk of being hurt outweighs the risk of losing a pay check or traveling the world!
This recent experience leaves me on the edge of something beautiful, yet gripped by fear and what-ifs and needing to make a call—do I take the risk? What if I get hurt? I was happy on my own, what if my life changes, what if it doesn’t work? I liken it to being in a cable car hurtling down a hill, but the rope has broken and there are no breaks—a risk we take each time we get in.
Sometimes things happen outside of our control, sometimes we don’t know the end result, often we don’t need to. Like a base jumper we can chose to take the leap of faith from the top and hopefully the universe, our higher power—whatever it is you believe in—will cushion our fall and guide us to where we need to land.
But we have to take the first step off the edge and that is the hardest part, because it involves facing our fears and taking the risk.
We spend a lot of time trying to avoid fear, to stay in our comfort zone where things feel familiar and safe, even if it makes us unhappy. So how did I eventually get to this point and make that step into the unknown?
I asked myself:
>> What will happen if I don’t?
>> Can I live like this for another year, what am I missing out on?
And of course, the flip side to that:
>> What’s the worst that can happen and what would I do?
This gave me some solutions for my biggest fears. I considered:
>> Why am I afraid?
>> Is it a rational reason (like spiders, for example)?
>> Is there an experience from my past that makes me scared of doing this, or perhaps a belief I’ve held for years that may not even be true?
This helped put my fears into perspective and see that some were not logical. I also discovered that one of the reasons I worried what people will think is because I want to please them. Incidentally, I did please them—even though they thought I was crazy at the time, many also respected the courage and now see the results.
To try and minimise the risks I had a plan and tried to prepare. For example, saving so I had some money to fall back on, doing an online course to upskill in my new career, researching the countries I wanted to visit.
I had to strike the balance between planning and knowing there was always going to be an element outside of my control and that even if it didn’t work out in the end, I’d navigate my way through.
I thought about my dreams non-stop, put pictures of them everywhere. I could see my dream everyday, and it made me more inclined to chase it, helping the fear seem more worthwhile to face.
Setting goals and making small steps toward them helped minimize the fear.
This week I’ll do this, next week I’ll do that. Each day we get closer, and the big thing becomes lots of little things.
Remember why we want to do this also helps—whether it’s to create a better life for your family or to land your dream job, we have to face the fear to get to the outcome
Fear is not a sign to put the breaks on and run back to safety, but rather a sign that we’re growing and taking steps forward to achieve our dreams.
Without risk there is no reward, so we can stay in the jobs we hate but we might miss out on living our passion; we can stay single and reduce the risk of being hurt but we might miss out on the love of our life.
A risk is only a risk until we’ve taken it, and fears rage at their worst before we face them.
Author: Jess Stuart
Image: lolla li/Flickr
Apprentice Editor: Aga Wyrzykowska; Editor: Emily Bartran