Settling for Safety: When Risk Is Worthwhile

by Andrea Kolber


Settling for safety is my default.

I'm not talking about healthy safety like boundaries or limits or even creating supportive relationships. No, this is a tendency to avoid trying new things or stepping out of a comfort zone because we may fail. This can translate to any part of life and it's something I've been unlearning for at least a decade.

Photo credit: Canva 

Photo credit: Canva 

I've been aware of this concept for awhile, but I started to see it differently when my supervisor used an analogy about painting. He explained to me about the point in a painting where the creator has to risk losing what she's created in order to make it the best possible art. He said to me, "Aundi, there comes a point when a painter has to choose between a good picture or a great one. The problem is, if you're wrong you may lose everything." 

My counseling supervisor can tell this story honestly because he's a painter. But it resonated with me too. For a recovering perfectionist, the fear of failure can keep them from risking at all. So in a way, those of us who fear risk, never get a chance to create our own masterpiece because we're too busy being good enough. Playing it safe. Avoiding failure. 

I'm no painter, but the longer I'm alive, the more I realize we don't get what we want by staying safe. Without the ebb and flow of risk, we never really grow. 

***

This framework around risk is popping up everywhere. Because in all of life we are constantly faced with this question: will we try? Will we allow ourselves to be exposed or do we want to stay put? 

Intuitively, I think we all know about this risk thing and frankly you don't have to be any sort of perfectionist to be afraid of it. The nature of risk is that vulnerability is intertwined with it. 

Want to know where I'm risking in my life right now? I'm cashing in all my chips on this concept: celebrate. 

I'm learning how much we risk-- I risk-- when I choose to celebrate. Sometimes it's because it's just plain scary. But other times it's because we don't know who will join us in celebration. We don't know how people will react when we proclaim this is something worth being grateful/excited/happy about. And so there we are-- risking the masterpiece. Wondering whether this will ruin the painting or put us right along side Picasso? Will I choose to lean into my fear in order to search out the better thing?

And the truth is, some days we will ruin the painting. We may start out strong and end up with a mess at the end. You know what? That's okay. It is okay to have a bunch of old, used, canvasses so that we can have the few worth keeping. 

I didn't really understand why celebrate was my word before. I simply knew it was. But already in 2016 I have learned how much it costs me to step out in vulnerability and celebrate where I'm at. This year has already brought its share of heartache. But, Im learning the risk I experience is worth the joy which comes with celebration.

***

So, I wonder what does this mean for your life? 

What mediocre painting are you willing to risk in order to create a masterpiece instead? 

Are you willing to shake up a comfortable life in order to search for a meaningful one? Or, are you willing to risk feeling 'put together' so that you may find your calling? 

The most pertinent question may be, what is so important that you can't avoid risking for it? 

Let's dive in together. I think it's worth it.