Get Better at Taking Risks

Up until a few years ago, I mostly lived in fear. I made all of my choices based on self preservation. I wanted to remain in control of all of my experiences. I wasn’t willing to accept that life was mostly out of my hands. But the truth is, fear had it’s grip on me and wouldn’t let go. And that’s because I didn’t trust life. I didn’t have a good base of spiritual support. I had no faith.  I felt not only responsible, but accountable for whatever happened in life. It wasn’t a comfortable situation, and in fact I spent most of my energy bracing myself for disaster – alone!

But then at some point, my fears began to expose themselves to me one by one. Through various circumstances and certain people, I became aware of how fear was ruling my life and how I consistently remained in the safe zone. This was all around the same time that I was asking myself an important question: Where is the Joy in life?

I felt there had to be more to life than what I was allowing myself to experience and I wanted to get to the bottom of it. That’s when I began to see fear for what it really was. Once I became aware, I decided to take more risks with my life rather than end up old, tired and resentful. I started saying “Yes” and “Okay,” a lot more in situations where I used to say “No!”

The road trip I took through California with my son, Kestrel was a series of scary yes’s. I climbed down sea cliffs with waves crashing all around us. Hiked to the top of some massive peaks. Camped in unknown remote locations. Drove up the steepest grades I’ve ever ascended and crossed bridges that dropped to nowhere. All the while I chanted my mantra, “Life is for me, never against me!”

taking risks

It’s interesting, but ask anyone what they consider risky behavior and they’ll all say something different. And that’s because we all define risk based on our biggest fears. For example, I see a couple whizz past me on a motorcycle at top speeds with no helmets on and I think, Geez! Death wish! But to them, it’s not risky, they’re not afraid in the least. Even though it would terrify me to be moving at warp speed totally exposed!

For me, I get a little freaked out by heights and things moving fast. Combine those two and my nerves rattle like the tip of a snake we thankfully never got a chance to meet. Over time, I’ve learned how to calm some of my fears and face them head on. Here are some tips in case you want to get better at taking risks too:

Just Decide to Do it

Like the Nike slogan says, Just Do It. Decide to take more risks this year in the spirit of joy and fun, not to prove anything to anyone, least of all yourself. Start by planning opportunities where you’ll have a chance to challenge yourself. Identify your biggest fears and find small ways to chip away at the power they hold over you.

Honor Yourself

Take it slow and honor your limits. At the same time you want to begin to develop the ability to discern whether it’s your head saying “no” or your gut. The head (your ego) will say no to almost anything that perceives potential damage to your image. The gut simply protects the body. Since my head tends to do a lot of the talking, I have to work on getting quiet and not letting my ego get out of control.

Take a Friend

It helps to take someone along who’s not afraid or who has experience with what you want to do. Make sure you pick the right person, someone who is patient and supportive rather than pushy. Like my son, they can say, “Come on. You’ve got it…it’s just a perfect little stair step of rocks. Don’t you think?”

Build your Faith

Taking risks, facing fears, challenging our limits are all part of the process of building faith. Alone, we are powerless, and yes, completely at the mercy of a natural world that is bigger and stronger and wilder than our tiny bodies. We must build faith in the Universe and a knowing that life is good. It doesn’t matter what you call your higher power, but you must learn to lean on something greater than yourself or life itself will feel like one big risk. The truth is, we are vulnerable. We can get hurt. But we are also supported by a miraculous force that made massive mountains,  raging rivers and towering trees, and that force hasn’t excluded us. The Universe wants us to enjoy the world, to connect with it in any way we can, and to live in the flow of life, not on the outside of it, looking in.

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