Safe. Predictable. That’s what we always want. For much of the time, most of us live well-guided lives, ones in which risk is rarely a part of the equation. And yet, every now and then, we are presented with a significant decision, often potentially life-changing. We feel like we’re on the edge of a precipice. Now we must choose. Do we take a step back into the arms of safety or do we close our eyes and fall. It’s a risk.
Taking the First Step
That’s how it often feels. Like we’d be falling into an abyss, no hands to clasp, ones that can pull us away from a most certain demise. But we wonder. If we were to possess a sound belief and an unwavering faith in ourselves, perhaps we won’t fall? When we open our eyes again, what we’ve merely achieved is only that first step—always the hardest—towards what we are seeking.
In order to risk taking that first step, we must also be ready to work. Whenever we’re taking a risk, having confronted our fears and had faith in ourselves to get to that point, other things fall into place. One of the key ingredients to our eventual success is our willingness to really work. Oh, but we are determined then. The fact is we had to truly believe in ourselves and our ability to do something, whatever that something happens to be. But this belief spurs us along to constantly work and re-work what we’re doing, until we meet with success. Such determination is always despite our fears.
This is another hurdle we must be ready to confront—our fears. Primary among them is failure or atychiphobia, the fear of failure. For those who suffer from this phobia, it can be frustratingly debilitating, a persistent fear of failing that can sometimes graduate into anxiety and depression. While for most, it does not develop into such an intense condition, the fear of failure is a reality that can hobble many of us.
However, failure is a complex entity. When we take a closer look, we realise it is neither our foe nor our longstanding nemesis. Ironically, it is a friend from which we can actually learn many a truth. It seems nonsensical. Although, to fail gives us several valuable lessons we could only receive after failing. First of all, having fallen, we only have two choices. We can stay where we are, never to try again. Or, we can get back up and try. We learn persistence and resilience. These are vital qualities that will always serve us well. Secondly, we also know something else invaluable. We now know what doesn’t work and that makes our way forward a little easier. Even if we have to try and fail several more times, each time we gain further insight.
The Uncertainties of Life
To take a risk and step off that precipice requires that we are, in addition, willing to confront uncertainty. For many individuals, we are now living in considerably uncertain and difficult times, a reality that leads to stress and other complications. For instance, our use of antidepressants is one indication of intense uncertainty. Since the 1990s, the use of antidepressants has increased substantially and more importantly, people are using these medications more and more for ailments other than depression.
Another critical measure is our mental health. Like our use of antidepressants, between 2003 and 2019, the percentage of Canadians who have judged their mental health as fair to poor has almost doubled. Uncertainty is only one very small component to these larger issues. However, it gives us an idea of the fragility of our minds and the reluctance to take risks.
Ironically, there are benefits in taking that risk. It builds our resolve, develops our persistence, and fortifies our confidence and determination. Together, these are all qualities that can work to strengthen our mental health. There’s even something known as Therapeutic risk-taking. It is meant to be empowering and allow individuals to realise that risk-taking is a necessary step towards developing coping strategies. Under the guidance of a mental health therapist, individuals can be allowed to take healthy risks that can enhance their growth as a person.
Many of us have been taught to avoid risk. “It’s too risky,” we’re told. So we don’t. However, we are often tempted to just try. So long as failure does not impede our ability to try again, why not steel our nerves and try what seems impossible and seemingly preposterous? Take the risk. It just might work. And if it doesn’t, then make a few changes and try again. As the author James A. Michener explained, “Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.”