It seems that I have been encountering numerous circumstances that involve risk-taking lately, both in my own life and with some of my clients. This interesting connection is not a coincidence, but, I believe, a necessary sign that risk-taking is a major factor in achieving our goals in life. Personally, I am currently taking risks that involve my career path, such as donating more time to growing it and pooling many of my own resources so that I can create the fulfilling and vibrant practice of which I dream. I know that without this dedication and perseverence, my career will not have the foundation to bloom into a lifelong successful practice in which I help clients on every walk of life.
Risk-taking is also a crucial element in finding recovery in eating disorders and other types of complicated issues. Lately, I have been gently encouraging several clients to look at what types of risks they are currently facing and how they can tackle those opportunities to enhance a life in recovery and wellness. These parallels between my own path and those of my clients are not surprising or rare; I find often in my therapy practice that experiences from my own life (present-day or in the past) can aid me in empathizing with clients’ stories and showing them that results can be produced by making changes in their lives — and taking risks.
Where do you take risks in your life — personal, professional, and a combination of both? What motivates you to take that risk, and what holds you back from leaping? I would say out of my own experience, fear and anxiety about “what’s going to happen if I jump?” can dictate a course of action (or inaction). Just like jumping off of a cliff, you do not know where this risk will take you and if you will fall flat on your face or if you will soar to solid ground (the healthy way to look at is is not in extremes but in the balanced middle ground — you may encounter some turbulence along the way). The push-pull of the decision making process emotionally takes into account past risks that you have (or haven’t) taken and filters them into the present day situation. It can be overwhelming to combine all of these factors in making a decision and sometimes the adrenaline of embracing a risky situation propels us into leaping without looking where we’re going.
Who’s to say there’s a correct way to evaluate risks? In many ways, we take risks each and every day that we may not be aware of (if you are prone to paranoia and worrying I would caution you about the next few sentences). We risk while walking through each street intersection that the stopped cars will not spontaneously lurch forward and hit us or that while driving at high speeds on the highway that the car in the next lane will not suddenly swerve into your car. We risk that electricity will power our lights each day and that the water will run from our faucets. We risk that the loved one we sent off to work in the morning will return again in the evening. Unfortunately, some of these very risks come dreadfully true for unlucky souls. However, the majority of the time taking these risks does not harm us and in fact pushes us forward on our daily paths.
In eating disorder recovery, we must risk tasting and consuming new foods — a threat to the exact nature of the eating disorder. What will happen if we do? We might gain some weight or have an emotional reaction to this risk. But what can you gain from it (no pun intended)? Self-confidence, health, and hope for a peaceful and eating disorder-free life. In recovery from sexual abuse, we must eventually try to form new relationships with members of the sex that assaulted us and left emotional and physical scars. Trust is a significant aspect of taking risks — we must feel certain that our teammates will be there to catch us when we fall backwards. Similarly, we must trust that taking the risk to open up to a new partner will not retraumatize us, or that if it does that our partner will support whatever healing process we must embark upon.
As someone who has taken quite a few risks in her life and would like to take a few more, I know that I would not have the awareness, competency, and curiosity that I possess if I had not opened myself to taking several big leaps. I also know that I have so much more to learn and experience. If you have a risk or opportunity presenting itself to you — don’t shy away. Look at it. What is it whispering to you? What could you learn from it? What does it tell you about yourself? How could it help you color the path toward your dreams?