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Opinion

Advantages gained from taking risks

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October 14, 2011

“God sends each person into this world with a special message to deliver, with a special song to sing for others, with a special act of love to bestow. No one else can speak your message, or sing your song, or offer your act of love… These have been entrusted only to you” (Fr. John Powell, S.J.).

My mom sent me this card last week, hoping to bring a bit of inspiration into my life. And now, no matter what your religious beliefs, I would like to share my resulting inspiration with you; to challenge you to take risks and live a more full life. So with this heartening quote in mind, I ask you to follow me on this journey.

To grow as an individual, comfort zones must expand, experiences must test beliefs, and learning must occur. Accomplishing any of these feats involves taking a fair amount of risks. To feel comfortable with taking a risk, it must first be identified, then examined, and finally, executed. Initially, brainstorm a collection of risks. They may vary from non-threatening everyday risks like talking to a stranger, leaving your phone at home, or standing on your head, to somewhat more frightening and real risks like saying goodbye for good, asking for a raise, or telling the truth.

Now title a piece of paper, “Risk ____.” Fill in any of the above suggestions or your own. Begin wherever you feel comfortable. Make list categories such as “risks” and “rewards.” For small risks and larger risks, add “worst scenario,” “what you are willing to do,” and “how it could help my life” lists. Use one minute or one hour to complete the corresponding lists. Once you feel satisfied, ask yourself why you have not taken the proposed risk yet and if it is viable to take such a risk. Assuming the risk is neither reckless nor illegal; toss aside your excuses and take it!

If you challenge yourself to take risks often, your life will improve. After taking a risk, no matter what the result, you still earned entitlement to a sense of accomplishment—you did it! Some risks help you learn more about yourself by identifying values, goals, and core beliefs. They also teach you about your fears, insecurities, and misconceptions. Furthermore, your confidence builds and your anxieties lessen each time you expose yourself to a risk. And finally, taking risks expands your world. Soon, your dream life integrates into your reality, all because you were willing to take a risk. While the easiest part involves making the risk lists, the most important step consists of taking the risk. Remember, without risks, no remarkable events or movements would ever occur. Know that you hold responsibility for your life and can impact millions of others. After all, “No one else can speak your message, or sing your song, or offer your act of love.”

So I challenge you: after you make your list, make the action of risk taking part of your routine. Offer your talents to the world, stand for your beliefs, learn, fall down, and stand back up. Cry, scream, and bounce with joy. Refuse to settle into a routine, boring existence. Grasp your life, love every minute, and never say no to a risk

Jaime Haines is an exuberant puppy-lover and “House” addict and plans to use her psychology degree to encourage activism and well-being through counseling, workshops, speeches, and the written word.