Monday, June 14, 2010


"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor.
Catch the trade winds in your sail. Explore. Dream. Discover."
~ Mark Twain


Risk. It is a scary word for many people. A word that can imply fear, suffering, failure. However to other people it can imply excitement, peace, success. Part of this difference is the fact that we don't know what the predicted outcome of a risk is going to be. An even bigger concern for many people is the actual process itself. So many times it is just more comforting and secure to do things as we have always done them, which in turn does not allow us to grow as a person.

Risk can come in many forms. It can be something as life endangering as skydiving (to me this is life endangering!) or as heart endangering as confiding to someone that you love them for the first time. In both circumstances, however different they may seem to be, there is definite danger. With the first one, you can end up with shattered bones and with the second, you can end up with a shattered heart. However in the end, if you don't take the risk, you never have the chance to reap the reward. How great those rewards can be!

Now some people who know me are probably sitting there wondering when was the last time I took a risk like skydiving, bungee jumping, etc. and well, they would be right (except skydiving is on my bucket list!) I am not sure though that Mr. Twain was really only thinking about these kinds of risks when he wrote the above quote. We take risks every day. We take a risk when we end a marriage, when we change jobs, when we trust someone, when we choose to open our hearts up again to love. I think the key in realizing that you are taking a risk is when you know you are actually doing something outside your comfort zone.

I had spent much of my childhood a very shy kid; I mean painfully shy. If you said hi to me, I might cry. I am not really even exaggerating on this one, I was very scared of people I did not know. I did get much better after changing high schools due to a move my sophomore year and then when I attended a large state university. I mean, I had to. It was sink or swim really. As the years went on, it was easier for me to be social and people now might even call me an extrovert (partially true). However even as I got more comfortable coming out of my shell and being social, certain social situations still oftentimes left me shaking in my boots. I still had a hard time introducing myself to new people and public speaking was a nightmare. It just wasn't in my comfort zone. I found that every single time (and I mean every single time), I did go out of my comfort zone to meet someone new or speak in public, it was a huge risk for me. It was a risk of looking like a fool, a risk of being criticized, a risk that I wouldn't say the right thing. What I found out though was that with every new person I forced myself to meet and with every time I spoke in front of my church or some other public forum, it got easier. I developed a new comfort zone.

I have found over the past few years, that my cautious personality has taken a backseat to a more risk taking one. I think in many ways, I was forced into it. In other ways, it has been a conscious decision in order to try and live my life in a way that I feel is more true to God and to myself. I have taken risks involving changing religions, meeting new people and challenging doctors (forcing them to challenge themselves as well). I have taken risks when I have spoken my mind, challenged authority, and advocated for my own health care. I have taken (and am still taking) big risks with medication for my autoimmune disorder in the hopes of having a much better quality of life.To be honest, I have found that I actually do not regret any risks that I have taken, and some of them have been epic I can tell you! Even when the situation has not turned out exactly how I hoped it would, I have learned much in the process.

I guess I see risk taking as pushing your limitations and venturing outside of what feels safe. In this way, we can experience life in a different and oftentimes more fulfilling way. I think what I have found to be helpful when it comes to knowing which risks I am willing to take and which are just foolish, is preparing/informing myself and listening to my heart. Everyone will have an opinion as to if what you are doing is considered "rationale" or "smart". However in the end, you have to be comfortable with your decisions. You are the one, after all, who will live with the results of your risk so make sure that it was based on your own thought process and your own inner voice.

So give yourself permission to sail away from the safe harbor every so never know what you may find out there...then hopefully 20 years from now, you won't be disappointed by the things you didn't do because really, the biggest risk in life is the one that you don't take.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

~Great Expectations~

"The best things in life are unexpected-because there were no expectations." ~ Eli Khamarov

"When one's expectations are reduced to zero, one really appreciates everything one does have." ~ Stephen Hawking

OK, so its 7:30am and I am awake in bed thinking that I need to now. For anyone who knows me, the fact that I am even awake at 7:30am is quite an event. The fact that I am doing something relatively productive at this time of day is just amazing. I am finding though that I enjoy writing the most when I am inspired and the result of this is today's blog.

So what was I thinking about when I woke up this morning? Expectations...the ones I have of you, the ones you have of me, the ones we have in our everyday life and how they can be a great cause of confusion, miscommunication, and general dissatisfaction. In the past, I have spent too much time being frustrated and disappointed in the people around me and even worse, in myself. Over a period of time, I have come to realize that it wasn't always that I failed or that other people failed me, but that it was the expectations that started the trouble in the first place! Now this in no way means that you or I should let people treat us with little respect, take advantage of us, or not strive to make a better lives for ourselves. However it does mean that instead of focusing on what we WANT to happen, we instead be more open to what WILL happen.

I am sure someone is sitting there thinking (or I am going to get an e-mail about it), well what is wrong with having expectations? What is wrong with wanting the best from yourself and others? My answer to that would be: don't confuse expectations with ambition or motivation. The word expectation is defined many different ways. One definition is as follows:

*notion of something: a mental image of something expected, often compared to its reality. (MSN Encarta).

THIS is where we run into problems..."compared to reality". The reality here folks is that we are all human. Is it nice to run our heads through fantasy land every so often? You bet. This is especially true when we are going through times of change, uncertainty, or stress. I think though that when the mental images become more fantasy than reality, is when we set ourselves up for the biggest disappointments. This is because most of the time, they cannot compare. In fantasy world, our coworkers do their jobs giving 100% (or at least 50%) all the time, partners can anticipate our every need without us ever uttering a word, and our kids get through Thanksgiving dinner without a scene. Here is the reality though: our expectations are usually different than the ones other people have. The coworker that is driving you crazy may think they are giving 100% by playing a game with a patient rather than making the patient's bed. Your partner may think they did good by picking up some of your favorite ice cream on the way home while forgetting to mail the bills. Your child may think they behaved perfectly because they didn't toss a roll at their brother's head during Thanksgiving dinner, even though they subsequently had a tantrum over finishing their dinner. In all these instances, everyone is right. They all met their own expectations.

I think Mr. Hawking (in one of the above quotes) really has the right idea. Maybe it seems a little extreme for some people to have zero expectations but for those of use who expect way too much, aiming for zero will possibly put us in the "average" category! I am finding that since I have started to not have so many expectations of myself and others, that life has gotten a whole lot less frustrating. I appreciate more of what people do have to offer and I tend to be much gentler with myself as well.

I have an event coming up soon I was experiencing some anxiety about. I pretty much attributed it to a variety of factors, but could not exactly pinpoint what had me in such a state. Then in a conversation with a friend (and a very wise one at that!), he made me realize that maybe it was my expectations of the event that were getting in the way. I had so many expectations for how I wanted it to go, that I was not giving it a chance to just let it be what it was going to be. I realized how right he was when I actually slept well through the night and woke up with a whole new calm perspective.

So I guess all I have left to say this morning is hang on to hope, ambition, anticipation, and possibility. In the process of doing this though, remember to keep your expectations of yourself and others realistic, attainable, and most importantly not in the way of enjoying whatever you may be experiencing today.