I’ve been re-reading Tim Ferriss’ great book The Four Hour Workweek, which has been expanding my mind and giving me lots of great ideas. In the book, Ferriss states that “most people choose to be unhappy rather than uncertain.”
As I began to reflect on this bold and somewhat critical statement, I realized how true it is for me in certain aspects of my life and work. While I like to think of myself as someone who boldly takes risks and tries new things, there are clearly places in my life where I avoid change, suffer with “how things are,” and allow fear to stop me from doing things differently (even if the way I’m currently doing things isn’t really working). Can you relate?
Change is a funny thing. Most of us seek it and fear it at the same time. Especially in the past year or two, with so much change and fear swirling around us – at work, in the media, in our families, and more – it seems as though many of us have gotten even more risk-adverse. And while this makes sense given the nature of the economy and other circumstances, our risk-aversion isn’t making us happier and more fulfilled, in fact it usually has the opposite effect.
Ironically, wherever we find ourselves on the risk continuum (i.e. someone who takes lots of risks, someone who rarely does, or somewhere in between), we all have had lots of experience with risk, change, and stepping into uncertainty. And while we often dwell more on the times we’ve taken risks and failed (and use these “negative” experiences as justification for not doing things differently or being bold), most of us have way more successes than failures when it comes to change.
Think of some of the things you’ve done in your life that felt risky at the time, but in hindsight you’re so glad that you did them (i.e. they really worked out and/or you learned a great deal in the process). Things rarely seem as scary when we reflect on them in the past – it’s the stuff that confronts us in the moment or the things we worry may happen in the future that cause us the most anxiety. However, looking back at our past risks, successes, and even failures can give us confidence as we move through our lives in the present moment. As the saying goes, “If it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger.”
Right now for so many people, teams, and organizations I work with – as well as many of my friends and family members (including myself), what’s necessary and essential for us to live lives of meaning, purpose, and fulfillment, is to consciously step out of our comfort zone, take more risks, and be willing to be choose uncertainty over unhappiness.
Can taking risks be scary? Yes! Will things work out? Not always. Is our level of fulfillment in life directly connected to our ability (or inability) to lean into uncertainty? Absolutely!