"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."
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 often....you 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.