Risks & Reorientation
Updated: Jul 12, 2020
I think it's safe to classify myself as someone who embraces risk: if there's an intriguing opportunity, I'll tend to dive in yet know the best time to move on; if there's a hard conversation, I'll tend to lean in yet know the right time to draw boundaries; and if there's a general "unknown" before me, I'll tend to dissect it and yet don't allow a failure to deter me. And I owe a lot - if not my entire life as it exists today - to taking care to nourish and curate that little fire I feel inside me. Challenging myself to take increasingly more intelligent, productive risks (with jobs, places, and people!) has probably been my single strongest guiding force over the last decade; from every "Yes" I've uttered where my heart is in my throat from pure excitement of the brand new - as well as every "No" I've forced out where I've then imagined myself living a thousand different lives, reflecting how time only marches on and never backward - I know that what I am today is a intricate coalescence of every one of those fleeting moments. I think what gives me the "high" sometimes is that while some risks are the result of the cumulative others before them, others are net new/clean slate risks - and for me and my life, I can't imagine being happy with any kind of stagnancy. So I opt in, again and again.
"Opting in" is a funny phrase, because for most people it could conjure a narrow either-or decision between just a couple of choices: do I jump into the new and leave behind my current comforts, or do I stay the course and lose out on what could have been? If I say no now, what am I missing out on - and if I say yes, could I be forgoing some other valid and fruitful path for my life? The way I prefer to view "opting in"is a little different, and I think the attitude I've had has helped me be overall happy ("glass half full, even if there's a mutant lemon in my glass at the moment") and resilient ("the pain or discomfort I'm feeling at this point in time will pass and teach me something I didn't know I needed to learn"). I've come to care almost intensely about searching for and emphasizing all imaginable upsides about opting into almost anything.
I'm pretty convinced this attitude of cultivating a deeper and more balanced level of self-gratitude (and not beating yourself up or dwelling in self-doubt after you make a decision or take a risk) is an important touchstone for emotional maturity and personal growth.
It works with the "big" and important things...
Cool position requiring an intimidating cross-country move? Uprooting yourself (and your partner, and your pup) to a new environment is a big risk. Opt in to treating it as the exciting new adventure it is: embrace a new local culture, explore new little worlds outdoors, and soak in this place and the people you've been given the opportunity to experience during your lifetime. An opportunity mounts to what you make of it, and there's no shame in giving something a good go to see if it's worthy of your long-term commitment.
Mustering up the bravery to stand up to someone who's long been disrespectful or even straight up toxic toward you? Sometimes we have the influence to bring more softness or compassion to those people, and other times, well, you realize they're just a bully. Opt in to the chance to live more self-respect and self-care by instead surrounding yourself with people who demonstrate respect toward you in both their words and actions. Put simply, don't put up with people who unhealthily project their misery; you deserve better.
Plans derailed because of the pandemic? Opt in to reading, writing, safe local outdoor activities, a new show... the world has felt like it's reeling and this is out of any one person's control. Tune into things that hone your joy and feed your soul. Be kind and gentle to others. What's happening is horrifying, so lean in to all those things that give you that sense of stability (even if just within your own mind), that sense of safety (especially in the walls of your own home, wherever and whatever you call home), that sense of optimism that tomorrow will be brighter than today.
And it works with the "little" and silly things...
Dog tried to kiss another bumblebee? Opt in to appreciation that you're financially stable and can take him back to the vet (again), and use this as a chance to demonstrate unconditional love and compassion toward a little creature who views you as the all-powerful leader of his little three-creature pack. An extra snuggle session after you give him his doggie Benadryl will only do you both a net good. Having a pet is a responsibility that I'd never walk back in a million years, even though mine likes to lick little bumbly things and try to stuff his head into wide-open gopher holes to taunt little diggy things.
It's 100 degrees and the Taco Bell is out of Baja Blast freeze again? To be fair, this was a predictable risk with a highly likely outcome that you'd leave the drive-through disappointed yet again and with a subpar freeze flavor because you'd just feel rude not ordering anything at all with a line forming behind you. Opt in to trying another Taco Bell.
Big or small, serious or silly, take care to do a quick check with yourself and ask what it means to reorient to your new state of things. And if you don't like the new, assess what you'd like to try next. You owe it to yourself to feed that little flame for adventure, and keep finding the best out of everything you opt into. Become passionate about identifying the good in your risks, and you just might realize that as hard as some of these risks have been, as trying as the opportunities may have felt in the moment, the cumulative effect of all of your risks has been a net good all along.