The Game of Stability and Risk

Some people are more risk averse than others. I think I’m middle of the road. I’ve taken risks most of my life, some small, some not so small. Behind all the risks I’ve taken is a deep motivation for change, for knowing or feeling that a change is needed. There have also been times when I have refused to take risk based on an overwhelming sense of fear of what could be. I know what it is and even if I don’t like it, at least I know. Ah, sometimes certainty is the enemy of growth!

The stability-risk game is one that is played by individuals, groups, businesses and pretty much anyone who is breathing and evolving. It is one of the oldest games in the universe. Entire books have been written on the subject; Susan Jeffers’ Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway comes to mind, along with many, many more. Music, television programs and heroic stories about people overcoming fear and taking risks surround us.

So why do I call it a game? Picture a volleyball court (or, for that matter, any sport that has opposing sides). This game has safety, belonging, certainty, homeostasis on one side; on the other side lies risk, growth, challenge, empowerment, evolution. Both sides are powerful teams and hold truth in their own right. Visualize the net as FEAR and us as the ‘ball.’ We are volleyed over fear and sometimes into fear! Hear this; both sides are needed in order for the game to be played! One is not to the exclusion of the other.

The game the ball plays: what if.

What if I choose safety and certainty?
What if belonging is more important to me than being challenged?
What if I just want things to stay the same?

Or,

What if I choose risk and fail anyway?
What if growth comes with a cost of losing a friendship or relationship?
What if I can’t rise to the challenge?

Or,

What if I felt safe enough to step into fear, risk and even possibly fail?
What if I had such a strong sense of belonging that growing myself would be celebrated?
What if I had certainty in my Self that challenge wouldn’t threaten me but excite me?

As the third set of questions demonstrates, my experience has taught me that both sides of the court are important to support the other. The truth of the side of safety, belonging, certainty and homeostasis is that these are foundational needs of human beings. When they are not met, we are off balance. Facing fear and taking risks can feel downright dangerous. Businesses, organizations, teams that do not meet these needs build cultures that are on shifting sand at best. People will be less inclined to take risks (and innovate) without a strong foundation under them.

The truth of the side of risk, growth, challenge, empowerment and evolution is this is what we, as human beings, aspire to. This is the itch that sometimes feels like it can’t be scratched because we are stuck in fear. We may have been served right into the net of fear and go nowhere, rolling around aimlessly on the ground! Fear will keep us going in circles. However, if we peel back the layers of that fear, we realize that we are completely capable, resourceful and creative in moving ourselves through any experience or situation whether we define it as a risk, or a fear.

As I’ve understood and accepted my need to have a ‘stabilizing point’ within myself and with people that I define as ‘my tribe’ that meets the needs of safety, belonging, and some stability, that I’ve also been much more open to taking risks, facing fears (which may mean falling flat on my face!) and empowering myself to take the next risk, then the next, and the next. Fear diminishes at the point of support. How will you support yourself to feel the fear and do it anyway?

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