Taking Risks – Realizing Dreams

                                        Written with Kristine MacKain, Ph.D

                           Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go — T.S. Eliot

You are facing a major life change (career, relationship, location) and are torn between taking the plunge or playing it safe. What are you most likely to do? Do you approach the change from a cautious or an adventurous perspective? Specifically, do you:

1. Pass it through the lens of your fears or your hopes?

2. Evaluate the situation from a past, present, or future perspective?

3. Allow people to influence you with their opinions about why it will not work?

4.  Reflect on the many opportunities you will have and how you will succeed?

Whenever we face change, irrespective of our personality type (adventurous or cautious) or unique set of circumstances, we often have at least two voices debating in our heads.

Voice #1. “But what if….”

The first voice is often triggered by fear but, in reality, has no grounding in an immediate or real danger.  This cautionary voice  reinforces and amplifies our anxieties by presenting every imagined negative consequence for the risk we want to take. This voice whispers the worst case scenarios — all the horror stories that may likely occur if we act on our ideas for change. This voice also plays into the fact that change is difficult for most people and reinforces our inclination to retreat to our comfort zone and keep us firmly stuck in one place.

But there is another voice, solidly grounded in the reality of the present, that we can choose to heed instead.

Voice #2 – “Go for it….”

The “Go for it” voice encourages us to be present — not be derailed by past disappointments or anxieties about the future — to take a leap of faith, and venture out into new territory. This voice plants us solidly in the present making it easier to see more clearly the potential opportunities in making a change.

Here are some steps that can help us to make positive changes in our lives without letting fears about repeating past mistakes or negative fantasies about the future dictate our choices.

1. Begin to observe our thoughts and realize that the “observing self” is solidly in the “now”. The act of observing interrupts our fixation with either the past or the future and allows the “go for it…” voice to be heard.

2. Take the plunge. When we take action, our initial apprehensions about, for example, less income or alternative living arrangements, begin to recede and are replaced by a growing sense of possibility.

3.  Distinguish between far-fetched and feasible ideas. It’s important to evaluate our ideas to see if they are reasonable. This is accomplished by seeking sound advice, doing thorough research and preparation, and consulting with those who have taken similar steps.

4. Be willing to fail. During our lifetime most of us have accumulated a list of failures. Our failed ventures need not define us now nor inhibit us in making decisions about our future. Rather, we can learn from our mistakes and use that knowledge in moving forward.

                                                              Our Story

(After reading this story you might want to see us talking about it BEFORE we took our journey.  Vimeo.com/4840651)

Four years ago we decided to move to Mexico.

The dream was to experience more fully other cultures and seek out new adventures, move our consulting base to Mexico, rent out our home in the USA, and prove the naysayers — those who warned us about the dangers of living “down there”– wrong. As we considered the move, we realized that while other people saw risks and danger, we saw adventure and opportunity.

As we considered the risks others posed, we came to realize that almost all of these were based on one or more of the following: faulty assumptions, negative fantasies, knee-jerk prejudices, and/or misinformation. Furthermore, these particular Americans were so wedded to their negative ideas about Mexico that when we provided facts that contradicted their views, they refused to believe the truth and became even more entrenched in their position.

As it turned out, none of the “what-if’s” happened. and, what was most exciting and unexpected for us,  was that our lives expanded and are now much richer and more interesting than we could have ever imagined.  We began our journey with positive expectations, but they represented a mere fraction of the actual adventure of living here.

What to many was regarded as a dangerous risk has evolved into the most exciting and expansive adventure of our lives.

Our dreams often reflect our deepest aspirations about the kind of life we want for ourselves and for that reason, it is important to listen to them. Someday, when you look back over your life, do you want to be saying “I wish I had…”  or “I’m so glad I did!”?

What change do you want to make that entails a risk?

What dream will you realize by taking this risk?

How can you reframe risks into opportunities to make your dream a reality?


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About cedricj

I am a licensed psychologist and management consultant and have always been intrigued by how leaders can inspire people in their organizations. The bottom line is that people are not always motivated by material rewards, the use of the carrot or the stick, fear and intimidation,and command and control, Five human needs inspire and drive us. Kristine S MacKain, Ph.D and myself describe these inspirational forces in our book "What Inspirational Leaders Do" (Kindle 2008)
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9 Responses to Taking Risks – Realizing Dreams

  1. Meredith Moraine says:

    This is beautifully laid out, simple yet profound. I hadn’t thought about how much more RATIONAL staying present for a big decision would be. You’re right–the murky, unknown future is where we tend to get bogged down, in all the what-ifs.

  2. cedricj says:

    Meredith, Jerry and yourself embody the whole philosophy of living in the present in your teachings and lives. You are such a part of our adventure here in SMA. thanks for your comment.

    Cedric and Kris

  3. Jerry Steward says:

    My life has taken several major changes of direction, often precipitated by forces beyond my control. At first there’s often fear and worry, but as the inner turmoil calms down, new possibilities and opportunities have often presented themselves. Most of the time when I’ve acted or reacted out of fear, I’ve been sorry, but when I’ve responded from my heart’s deeper longings, it’s always worked out well, even when it hasn’t. It takes courage to move in a new direction, but it’s easier when we’re acting in alignment with what is authentic in us.

    • cedricj says:

      You are so right Jerry that often life has other plans for us. This often scares the living daylights out of us (like it did for me with my Cancer diagnosis a few years ago). So we scamper around, muddle along, do the best we can and eventually come back to that inner wisdom that was there all along. Our heart’s inner longings are always our “true north”. Thanks for weighing in on this topic.

    • Robert DeLong says:

      Great philosophy. I took my first real risk when I moved to Mexico in 1967 to avoid Vietnam. You can imagine the uproar from family and friends. The best thing I had ever done until 28 years later when my wife died and I lost everything I had worked for to medical bills even with the best available insurance at the time. I went sailing on a strangers boat and 4 months later wound up in New Zealand. First time really at sea and no idea what New Zealand had to offer. I dug in got a job and rebuilt a wonderful life in a wonderful country.. Very scary at times but with effort and perseverance I now am a proud Kiwi and did not return to the US for 12 years. The risks were more than worth it. With reason follow your dreams. .

      • cedricj says:

        Robert, what an inspiring story! Despite some incredible setbacks, like losing your wife and most of your financial resources, you kept going and like many of us stumbled into new and exciting dreams. You show great resourcefulness, courage, and persistence.
        You are precisely the type of person that we write about in our Blog posting on risk.
        Thanks for sharing your story.

  4. Robert Conrow says:

    I really like this piece. It’s succinct, methodical, and ultimately very practical considering that life’s deeper rewards so often involve a leap into the unknown. Maybe at some point, you can explore more of the fear aspects of Voice #1. I keep thinking that in some ways, fear is a friend because (when viewed through the ‘witness mind’) it can show us more precisely where our obstacles are. Perhaps there’s something about ‘freedom from fear’ as not being so much a denial of its existence–a hazardous position– as it can be an encouragement to move forward more wisely when it’s thoughtfully tracked. What do you think?

    • cedricj says:

      Thanks for your very thoughtful comment Bob. Yes, fear, much like a warning light on the instrument panel of a car or plane prompts us to attend to important factors in our lives. In that way fear is our friend.

  5. Pingback: Hitting an Inspirational Nerve | Cedricj's Blog

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