Why We Can’t Just Play it Safe

In a world that continually reminds us about how unsafe it is, it is difficult to maintain a “play it safe” approach. From political divisions to a tumultuous stock market to polluted skies, we are buffeted by the reckless risks of others. In an increasingly compressed and frenetic world, we are like billiard balls being smacked around in somebody else’s pool-hall hustle.

Ironically, those who play it safe may be in the greatest danger. When we don’t take risks we get stuck in a rut of safety. Over time, we become trapped inside our own life, like a pearl confined to its shell. Life becomes stale and boring. We grow resentful of ourselves for letting our grand passions languish. We tell ourselves, there’s got to be something more out there for me. But we know we’ll never find it unless we take more risks.

Risk is Inevitable

Given risk’s inevitability and its central role in living a fulfilled life, combined with the realities of an increasingly risk-intense world, knowing how to take risks should be a part of everyone’s core life curriculum. Rather than let risks be inflicted on you by happenstance, today’s realities dictate that you learn to initiate them yourself. As a friend of mine likes to say,

“You’re either part of the bulldozer, or you’re part of the pavement.”

Fortunately, “being part of the bulldozer” does not mean you have to act like it. Unlike many of the risks that are imposed on you from the outside, the risks you take can be anchored to steadfast principles that serve to strengthen your life instead of undermining it.

It’s time to take more deliberate and intentional risks, despite an increasingly complex world. When you make smart and courageous choices, by taking risks that most reflect your personal value system, you are setting yourself up for success. These types of risks, regardless of outcomes, are always deemed successful because they are taken with a clean conscience and clear calling. They are at once deliberate, life-affirming, and closely aligned with one’s deepest core values. Take the risks that stand for something.

Risks that Stand for Something

Some examples are the decision whether or not to get married, have children, or confront a loved one. Or when we are considering joining a social cause, converting to a different religious denomination, or switching political parties. In our work lives, we face risks when we grapple with whether to sign on for a position that is beyond our skills, accept an overseas assignment, expose a company impropriety, or elevate a ground-breaking but tradition-defying idea. For better or for worse, the choices we make in such instances can have enduring consequences.

Take a moment and reflect on these two things:

  1. The greatest risk you’ve ever taken.
  2. The risk you’ve always wanted to take but have been too afraid to do so.

Most of us have a big risk decision that we are grappling with. The quality of our lives improves in direct proportion to our ability to take on challenging risks. Not all risks are the right risks, but when you ensure it is aligned with your values, you are on the right track.

For many of us, our greatest regrets revolve around a risk we didn’t take because we were too afraid. Or a risk that we took for all the wrong reasons that turned out disastrously. There are risks all around us. Before we even step out our door we are bombarded by risks. So taking risks is not an option. Choose to take the risks that can propel you forward instead of holding you back.

This post is based on an excerpt from my book, Right Risk: 10 Powerful Principles for Taking Giant Leaps with Your Life.

Photo by Max Harlynking on Unsplash.

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