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“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. What if they are a little course, and you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice. Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
Sometimes we really can get in our own way.
Last year, I read this article about the fine art of walking. And come to find out, slowing down the natural pace of our walk, or stride, actually requires more energy, not less.
Initially, this idea sounds absurdly incorrect, but from a physics standpoint, it makes sense. When we allow our legs and arms to move at the natural rate and stride that they are designed to do based on their length, there is no opposing force (similar to coasting a car a down hill, then using the accumulated energy to propel the car up the next hill); however, when we have to slow down because of a crowd or three-abreast-walkers on a sidewalk that we cannot yet maneuver around, our pace has to be slowed down (i.e. the car must use its brakes, and then more fuel to increase the energy to propel itself up the hill) and there is more energy that is expended to limit the natural swing of our legs and arms.
When it comes to knowing which risks to take in our lives, we often are already practicing or engaged in what is actually “risky”. That is to say, if we have done our homework to understand ourselves fully, are self-aware, have made necessary adjustments that align with what we discover rather than following the crowd to simply get along, step forward with gumption, and continue to follow our curiosities, we most likely have a fairly clear picture of what we love to do, and what we can offer the world and as well, enjoy offering to the world.
“Creative risk-taking is essential to success in any goal where the stakes are high. Thoughtless risks are destructive, of course, but perhaps even more wasteful is thoughtless caution which prompts inaction and promotes failure to seize opportunity.” —Gary Ryan Blair
In other words, what may seem risky to others does not actually feel risky to you because it comes more naturally – just like walking with our natural stride – it is just how we’re made. And it’s not to say you were necessarily born with this inability to be scared by what you love to do. Actually, it is a marriage of what you are innately talented at and your experience and time and practice with this talent that squashes the fear.
For example, in my recent conversation on KATU’s AM Northwest, I shared six ways to let go of the “rules” society places on us or we allow to be placed upon us. One way to shake what is inhibiting you from stepping into your true self is to embrace risks worth taking. And the funny thing is, as I shared in our segment, often what is perceived as a risk to someone else, is not a risk for you because you both love it and have life experience doing it. For me, as I shared, it is traveling and often traveling on my own.
Now I didn’t begin traveling on my own to far and wide places, but I did as a child become comfortable with my own company rather young as my childhood home is situated out in the country with vast open spaces. And so I would wander, and gradually I became very in tune with my surroundings, learned how to trust my instincts, etc. etc. This is not to say that one should travel everywhere alone (again, trust your instincts and do your homework), but it is to say, that often we have been strengthening skills that enable us to do certain things very well which others would perceive to be impossible for themselves, or rather risky.
“The most important thing to remember is this: to be ready at any moment to give up what you are for what you might become.” —W. E. B. Du Bois
Today, examine what you do that often others are shocked and amazed you are capable of doing. Not necessarily shocked that you are able to do it, but that someone can do this particular thing so well. For my mom, it is her gardening green-thumb. I still don’t think she fully realizes how wise she is when it comes to growing, planning, and all the other “—ing”s that are associated with gardening. All I know is that her yard and garden on Alder Slope causes awe and delight when people see it each and every year. So much so my brother and sister-in-law were married there ten years ago, and oh my goodness was it stunning, and still is.
To use my mom as an example, she didn’t come out of the womb knowing how to tend a garden spectacularly. Her curiosities led her to learning more, and over time she continued to increase and apply her knowledge. She continues to learn and fascinates in it which is the moment where many of us assume because we don’t know everything about what we love doing (here’s where the old adage comes into play – the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know), such a capability cannot possiblity be part of our legacy, path forward or greater purpose, but often it is. In fact, it is because we know as much as we do in large part because of all of the time we have dedicated and spent doing what we love, and are more astutely aware of all that we don’t know that demonstrates we are where and doing what we need to keep on doing. It really is that simple.
Examine what you do well and enjoy. Examine what comes easily to you that others are astonished by, and that is where you need to continue stepping forward even when you don’t know how it will all unfold. There’s the risk. The risk is less that you don’t know how to do something and more that you don’t know what the future will reveal when you continue to strive forward down a path that is quite natural.
So instead of assuming that life must be “a daring adventure or nothing at all” as Helen Keller states, view the “daring” as less heart-thumping anxiety and more heart-beating excitement imagining the opportunity to do what you love and see where it leads. That is your natural stride, and it will provide infinite fuel forward.
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