Lately, I’ve been thinking about my risk aversion and what it has meant in my life, and on the flip side, about others who have no qualms with risk and what it has meant for how they live their lives. I’ve realized that security is important to me- physical security, financial security, secure relationships, etc. These are all important aspects of living a fulfilling life, as long as they are not taken to the extreme. In the Christian faith, we ask forgiveness for both the things we’ve done and the things we’ve left undone. This can be applied to the things we’ve done or haven’t done to/for others, as well as ourselves. Things left undone has been the much bigger issue for me than things done. And honestly, until recently, I’ve always thought that it was a better place to be, because rarely had I intentionally hurt someone else or myself. But perhaps this is not a better place. If you want to live a full and intentional life, you have to take some risks, and you can’t easily default to “no, I won’t do _____ because I am not sure how it will turn out” or “no, I can’t do _______ because don’t want to make a mistake (or fail)”. Sometimes, this is where my risk aversion has left me, with fine opportunities that I could have seized upon and didn’t. Part of my risk aversion has come from not listening to or trusting my inner voice, which would have included looking closely at how I felt about something, rather than just weighing the hard fact pros and cons (which generally led me down the road to over-analyzation). While I wasn’t comfortable with the notion of having to regret something that I had done, I downplayed the feelings that could come from regretting something that I hadn’t done.
This is not to say that every opportunity that comes our way should be taken. Evaluating these opportunities requires discernment. And for my friends who err on the side of not considering risk enough, there may be a different lesson for you here; to consider using the more logical aspects of decision making and not just follow your feeling impulse in any moment. In addition, to realize that actions can have unintended consequences and require trade-offs in our lives that we perhaps wouldn’t be willing to make if we’d thought through those.
As with so many aspects of our lives, we’re left with trying to find balance; balancing the knowledge of who we are and what our default tendencies are, as well as balancing the two sides of the risk spectrum.
The holiday season of 2012 has come and gone. I have spent time with various members of my family and tried to give them glimpses of some new pieces of myself and some of my new ideas about the world. The experience reminded me that sometimes it can be hard to be to be a new, different person with those people whom we have spent a large portion of our life with. It’s easy to fall back into an old way of being; and this is not always a bad thing.
A few years ago I met up with one of my college roommates for a girls weekend. We hadn’t seen each other in quite some time, yet it felt like no time had passed. We saw each other as the same people we had been. We didn’t have to negotiate our roles with each other, we already knew which of us would lead in different situations. When we got into the car for the first time that weekend, she drove and I navigated, and that is how we’d done it in college. In some cases, it’s nice not to have to go through a renegotiation process in our relationships and just be how we’ve been before.
But sometimes we want to start anew, in one area or all areas of our relationship. Sometimes we want to show people that we have changed, but we don’t know how to introduce that into the existing relationship. Sometimes we see their reactions to new ideas we have or new pieces of ourselves and we realize that there is a reason that we haven’t been that way with them. And sometimes they react in unexpected new ways themselves, and show us a new piece of themselves.
As we attempt to share our new selves, we also need to recognize when someone else is trying to share their new way of being with us, and be open and curious to it, rather than inherently react negatively to the unexpected. As I attempted to share new pieces of myself with my family, I also noticed that they tried to share new pieces of themselves with me. And I wasn’t always open to it, my initial internal reaction sometimes was negative or judging. I had to remember that it is a two-way street.
In this time of new year’s resolutions, I guess that the best we can do is to keep trying. If our new way of being is important enough to us, we can have the courage to bring it out into to open, and not hide in ourselves of the past. Whether other people react positively or negatively to it, we can still be true to ourselves. We must also allow other people the freedom do the same, and acknowledge and encourage the new pieces of themselves that they reveal to us.