The old saying, “We don’t know what we like, we like what we know,” is absolutely true. But whether we like it or not, life is full of change, and often, change comes as a result of taking risks. Yet not taking risks in life for fear of discomfort and change often produces a life of isolation and underdeveloped potential. In fact, I believe it is one of the greatest challenges for people who either feel stuck or are too comfortable in their predictable (but underwhelming) life to make a change.
I’ll be the first one to admit that predictability is safe, and safety is comfort. But who would be willing to squander their life’s potential for the sake of fleeting comfort? Who would be willing to stay stuck and locked up in a life that dishes out a daily ration of mundane?
Well, for starters, people who have experienced any sort of major loss or disappointment. And even though it’s not a good place to stay, I have a lot of compassion for those people.
Upsetting the Apple Cart
People who have experienced hardship and disappointment aren’t quick to take on change. After the accumulation of a lot of chaotic life events, I didn’t want to upset the apple cart, so to speak. Heck, I didn’t even want to touch the apple cart. Why? Because I was tired of disappointment and instead hedged a bet upon living a predictable, small existence for the sheer sake of comfort instead of living for a calling. Maybe you haven’t experienced a boatload of heartache but are way too comfortable living in your “5-mile radius” life. What’s at stake by cashing the chips in for comfort, though? For starters…
- A fulfilling career in a new city
- Incredible new relationships
- The pursuit of your dreams… and maybe even the fulfillment of them
The list goes on.
To me, however, the cost of predictability has even more severe ramifications than simply stepping outside of our comfort zone; it’s an issue of stewardship of our lives.
Is the Goal Comfort or Faithfulness?
The pursuit of bigger opportunities, more resources and greater influence is noble, but what are you doing with what you have today, like right now? Faithfulness with what’s in your hands today sets the stage for increase tomorrow. Period. At the end of your life, you’ll have to answer the question, “What did you do with your life?” Of course, the question is rhetorical, but I would hate to be the one who buried his potential because of fear.
Allow me to set the stage by telling a story.
There once was a particular real estate investor who was about to take a long trip overseas for over a year. And so, prior to departure, he huddled his team together, entrusting each of them with property. They each received a parcel of land in proportion to their personal ability to manage and lead well. One of the team members was entrusted with five properties. Smart as he was, he sold the five parcels of land, and in return, doubled his money. Another received two properties. He sold both wisely, and in return, doubled his money. But the remaining team member, riddled by fear of making a mistake, just filed the property deed away without another thought and carried out his normal tasks. Upon the shrewd real estate investor’s return, he rewarded the first two and fired the team member who shrank in laziness and fear.
What’s the point? Let’s break this down for life application.
Their land is your potential.
Each team member was entrusted with a parcel of land according to the proportion of his own personal ability, and in our case, potential to lead and make prudent decisions. Interestingly, the number of properties wasn’t the issue; calculated investment risk, prudence and wisdom was the issue. Such as it is in life, we aren’t responsible for what we wish we had or what someone else has. We are responsible to tend to what we do have in our care and leadership responsibility today.
The question remains, how many of us are either too comfortable or too scared to steward, maximize and invest the life with which we have been entrusted for fear of failure, inconvenience and discomfort? The point is, the way you lead your life, whether in fear of failure or in willingness to risk, is a big deal.
5 Truths About Taking Risks
If life has thrown you a nasty curveball or has pelted you with unrelenting pain and you feel trapped in fear, trust me, I get it. I am not a risk-taker and quite honestly, I hate change. Truly. But it is with great compassion that I encourage and implore you to keep moving forward. Take each day as a new day and step out, even if you’re scared as you do it.
On the flip side, if you’re burying your talent simply because your predictable life is just too easy and comfortable, I don’t have sympathy. But I do have compassion—compassion to challenge you to seize today because you’ll never get today back. And someday, “today” will be 15 years down the road.
That said, here are five undeniable truths about taking risks in life:
1. Taking risks provides clarity.
Two months ago, I stepped way outside my comfort zone and took a risk that cost me every ounce of comfort and every morsel of predictability. But in the last two months, I’ve gained more clarity on who I am, passion for my purpose and clarity about what is most valuable to me in this life.
2. Taking risks will cost you more than you anticipated up front.
Truly, it will. But I believe the reward is greater than the risk. Even if the risk ends up not working out, the learning experience is definitely worth the investment.
3. Taking risks (or not taking risks) because of a people-pleasing motivation will backfire quicker than you could ever expect.
Remember the story I shared? What’s at stake is faithfulness to properly manage something that was entrusted to you: your purpose-loaded life. Yet operating in fear will render you impotent in the development of that potential.
4. Taking risks is not at all equivalent to gambling.
Taking risks has nothing to do with throwing caution to the wind or flipping a coin. I believe taking risks involves careful planning, deliberate investigation and a truckload of counsel.
5. Not taking risks will likely produce regret.
And at the end of life, will you look back and ask the proverbial question, “What if?” Or, will you look back upon life and repeat the words of journalist Hunter S. Thompson: “Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a ride!’”
Listen, you might step out, find out and fall flat on your face. But at least you tried. At least you took a risk instead of burying your talent in the cold, hard ground.
After writing all 1,200 words here, I’m swallowing hard, rolling up my sleeves and ready to go after this thing called life. I have to. You have to. How can we not?
Related: Afraid of Risks? How to Be Bolder
This article originally appeared on chriscookis.com.
Photo by everst/Shutterstock.com
Christopher Cook is a leadership coach and business consultant to both Fortune 1000 and nonprofit organizations. Additionally, he is the host of “Win Today with Christopher Cook,” a popular weekly podcast, available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play and other outlets. Through his work at WINTODAY.tv and as a contributor for SUCCESS magazine, he serves as a guide to help people design their road map to wholeness from the inside out.