Overly Cautious: How I’m Convincing Myself to Take More Risks

I am a fairly cautious person.

For good reason––the world is a dangerous place. You never know what could happen. (Someone could not return your hello…! Or the new menu item you order could turn out to be terrible!)

But despite those realities, I don’t want to stay in my comfort zone. The comfort zone is a place of complacency, mediocrity, and stagnancy. We were made for more. There is more life, love, and brightness waiting for us if we are just willing to step out. Yet, the comfort zone is so…comfortable.

Most of us have this tension inside us, wanting to step forward into more, yet liking being comfortable at the same time. I’ve been thinking about this tension lately and how to convince myself to step into the more. Hope some of these thoughts bring you clarity and inspiration as well!

Here are 3 reasons we stay comfortable and how to combat them.

#1: Lack of Motivation (Laziness)
A Shift: Choose Love

I’m pretty good at being lazy. My ability to waste time often amazes me. I am often content to not take initiative and passively let what happens, happen. If it’s good enough, why bother with it?

But I think kind of thinking robs us of a lot of potential richness in life.

Most people would say we should step out for the sake of: self-growth, self-improvement, to break out of the status quo, to reach our full potential, to not miss out on opportunities, etc. Basically, we should do it for our own sakes.

But I’ve run into a better motivator: LOVE.

I’ve been realizing more and more that love is the only thing that can motivate me to stick it through when the going gets rough. Love is what compels me to take risks and do scary things. Love is what makes it worth it.

Rather than thinking about the abstract concept of reaching my full potential or achieving a certain level of success, I’ve been thinking about what I love and value. I’ve been challenging myself to love more and to love better.

This does include loving myself. It includes self-care. (So often Christians overlook self-love. We are so afraid of being selfish that we fail to be good to ourselves, which ironically limits our ability to love others well.) Love also includes a passion for ideas and activities––for me, writing and music, among others.

But mostly I’ve been thinking about people. Many, many people. The people who are right next to me whom I’m tempted to overlook. Children who need affirmation, friends who need encouragement, strangers whose days I could potentially brighten. 

Am I willing to step out and take a risk for the sake of someone else?

Am I willing to step out and take a risk for the sake of someone else?

Love is always a risk––there is always a risk it won’t be reciprocated, or worse, that it will be abused or taken advantage of somehow. But when I remember who I am––God’s daughter––I realize that I want to be like my Father, who constantly chooses that risk.

#2: Fear of Getting Hurt
A Shift: See Scars as Trophies

When you step into the unknown, you can get hurt. Physically. Emotionally. Even mentally. It’s scary! But isn’t it kind of exciting at the same time?

We are more resilient than we think.

I recently cut off a little piece of my pinky near the knuckle. When I looked down and saw a chunk of my finger was missing, I was devastated. I thought I had lost a (small) part of myself forever.

But guess what? It grew back. Eventually, slowly. It was wild. Somehow my finger filled itself in.

What we think will alter us forever often only leaves a little scar, something too small to even notice most of the time. Parts of myself I think I have lost actually grow back. Even parts of us that die can come back to life. And when they do, they are better than before.

The truth is, pain does change us. 

It’s true, some scars are deeper than a little chunk taken out of a pinky. Some wounds go deep and don’t heal easily, if at all. Risks need to be measured. But often, we are far too pain-averse. The truth is, pain does change us. The hurt affects us. But the effects aren’t all negative. Our hearts are expanded, our compassion increased. We mature and understand things we didn’t before.

The scars can even be seen as a trophies. A reminder of our boldness, courage, and resilience.

#3: Fear of Failure
A Shift: Recognize the Beauty of the Mess

This is perhaps the most obvious fear that keeps me stuck in my comfort zone. There is a very real possibility that I will fail. And no one enjoys failure, right?

My pride hates when others perceive me as less than capable. My pride hates to put on display less polished parts of myself, to flail around and make mistakes (which is necessary if you’re trying something new). To publicly go all in for something, to give it my best, and then to fail?

Ouch.

There is nothing quite like that pain.

So, I often distance myself from what I really want. I rationalize and pretend I don’t care when things go wrong. I convince myself not to go all in. In protecting my reputation, I not only miss out on possible accomplishments, but I miss out on who I could potentially become.

I’ve decided embracing failure as an important part of life is the key.

So many people these days seem to expect instant success. That’s just not how it works, and not how it should work. I can’t help but think of Mrs. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus (am I dating myself?): “Time to take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” A rather profound exhortation, now that I think about it.

I used to hate “messy,” but my perspective has changed. Now I can see that messiness is part of the beauty of life.

Messiness is part of the beauty of life. Click To Tweet

Conclusion

We could stay right where we are for the rest of our lives. But I’m guessing that’s not what we want. At least not deep down.

So, let’s recalibrate ourselves to expect failure. Let’s examine some old scars to remind us of how resilient we are. And let’s let love pull us forward––into unknowns, discomforts, and risks.

Let’s get messy! :)

 

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Elizabeth holds to simple faith in a complex world. She values the beauty of the everyday and strives for vulnerability with other imperfect humans. She is currently pursuing her MDiv at Fuller Theological Seminary, so when she isn't busy writing academic papers, she is usually out enjoying the LA sunshine. She is constantly learning, laughing, and finding herself in awe of grace.

2 thoughts on “Overly Cautious: How I’m Convincing Myself to Take More Risks

  1. I think this is one of my favorite posts yet! So well articulated and encouraging! You definitely hit on a lot on what I personally do to avoid risks and to stay in my comfort zone. I have some new terms and ideas to pray with now after reading this! Lord, let your love lead me into the unknown! Re-calibrate my heart to expect and embrace failure! Woo! Scary/exciting prayer :D!

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