I was in a bit of decluttering mode last week and was sorting through a pile of old papers, deciding what needed to be kept and what could be recycled, when I came across a poem that I had forgotten about. The poem was called “Risk”, and the part that really stood out for me was this: “The greatest risk in life is to risk nothing. The person who risks nothing does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing.”
It really made me start to think about the nature of risks; why people take them, what prompts us to choose risk over safety, and whether or not I’m taking enough of them in my own life and business. I began to re-evaluate my goals and dreams, and really think about where I want to be at this time next year. And I wonder – am I really doing enough to get myself there? Am I taking the right kind of risks to get there, or am I choosing the path of security instead? Is my fear of going too far out of my comfort zone preventing me from taking the bigger steps that I need to take in order to make my dreams come true? Is my current comfortable routine going to be what ultimately stifles my dream and prevents it from fully blossoming into something extraordinary?
The greatest risk: settling for the ordinary?
In my last post, I talked about fear, and I really think the reason so many of us are afraid to take the risks that we know are necessary to get us to where we want to be in life comes down to fear. We’re afraid to risk the certainty of the known – whether we’re happy with it or not – for the uncertainty of the unknown. So we settle for what is. And to me this is the greatest risk: turning our lives into something we’ve settled for, and condemning ourselves to always wonder what would have happened… if.
This is a concept that was really made clear to me in a book I just finished reading. It was The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho, and there was a passage in that book that really brought this whole concept of dream related fear home. It’s the part where the boy has been working for the crystal merchant for a while and has made so much money for him that the merchant can now, finally, afford his lifelong dream of going to Mecca, but he tells the boy that he won’t do it because holding onto his dream is what keeps him going and makes his life tolerable; he’s afraid that if the dream is realized he’ll have no reason to go on living.
At first I thought this was an absolutely ridiculous notion… how could the realization of a dream be anything but amazingly incredibly exhilaratingly awesome? But then it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, the merchant had a point. Maybe, for some people, a big dream is like the shiny bauble that you like to look at but have trained yourself never to touch in case you break it. Or maybe, for some people, the greatest risk is that if they go out and live that dream, it won’t live up to their expectations and they still won’t be happy. And so they hunker down in the misery that they know rather than risk the worse potential pain of a dream that wasn’t what they hoped it would be.
The merchant’s fears: what if my dream doesn’t make me happy?
The thing is, for those with any understanding of LOA, we know that happiness is always an inside job – no thing, no situation, and no dream can bring us happiness – not unless and until we are already happy on our own. All those things and situations and dreams that we want will just add to that pre-existing happiness… but they don’t magically create happiness for us. The key is to get happy now, while you’re working on that dream… because when it does come true, it’ll just magnify the happiness you’ve already chosen for yourself.Dreams don't CREATE #happiness for us by coming true; they just MAGNIFY what we already have. Click To Tweet
And if a dream doesn’t live up to your expectations… well, that’s not really a problem either. Because there is always going to be a new dream! That’s just part of life – as we change and grow and gain new experiences and understanding, our dreams evolve right along with us. So if you get somewhere and don’t like it… then change it! Follow a new path or blaze a new trail — that’s what you’re supposed to do! And in the process of getting to that first dream, you will have learned and experienced so many new things that journey itself will have been worth the effort. Trite though it is, life really is about that journey and not the destination… so we may as well enjoy the ride no matter what.
But… is it worth the risk?
We fear so much when it comes to our dreams: failure, success, discomfort, disapproval, judgment, change… the list goes on. And yet we give up so much by not taking the risk to create the life we dream of, because when we give up on what our hearts truly want, we give up a piece of ourselves. And this is where we really do give up any chance we have for real happiness, because being happy comes from being true to Who We Really Are.
So the question becomes: is it worth the risk? Is it worth doing the things that scare the crap out of you in order to move yourself closer to your goal?
It’s a tough question. And you’re the only one who can answer it. But ask yourself this: If you choose to do nothing… what will the cost to you be in one year? Two years? Ten years?
The greatest risk doesn’t come from taking risks it comes from always avoiding risks. The greatest risk lies in doing nothing, having nothing, being nothing and becoming… nothing.
Now get out there and shine.
P.S. Here’s a printable poster version of the “Risk” poem — no opt-in required: Download the Risk poem poster here! (PDF file, 377 KB)
photo credit: (c) Can Stock Photo (modified by me)