I had an ashtray from Paris in the 80’s with my favorite expression on it; Qui Ne Risque Rien N’a Rien. It sat next to the sink where I would see it every morning. It reminded me to take risks, because without a little risk taking, there would be nothing. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. It became a mantra for me.
In my yoga community as we all stood in tree pose, I asked our fabulous teacher Rob, if he would take our picture. These beautiful BA50 women are the embodiment of showing up for what is important to each of them. We come together to practice yoga a few times each week. That may not sound like a risky thing, but risk isn’t always about danger, it’s about giving up something to get something. (Sorry that a few of our other regulars are missing from this pic).
This dedicated class is one of the easier risks for most of us to step into as the reward is easily accessible: health and joy and community. Each of our poses appear at first glance to be the same tree pose, but our styles our different, our comfort levels are unique to us and what we have to do to show up is different.
Carving out space in our lives to try new things was definitely easier when we were younger. I remember how scary it was to quit the job to meet my boyfriend in Tokyo for 6 months and study Japanese before business school, but I did it, because i craved the reward of an adventure.
I said yes to the woman who invited me to start a publishing company with her when I was 29 and quit my job and although the rewards weren’t apparent, I hated my job at the time and being happy was enough of a reward to take that leap. It turned out to be the best choice personally and financially ever.
What I regret, as I look back, is not saying YES and not trying things out of fear or the inability to make space in my life to jump in. The trip not taken, or not showing up for something.
The truth is, our risk tolerance changes as we age. And it’s really interesting to notice, what is driving the change in our decisions. Personally, when I feel myself shying away from trying something new, I force myself to evaluate why that is because I don’t want it to be a decision based on fear.
Fear can be healthy, I get that. But, fear also can make us feel older because we get stuck in the not doing. And, the truth is, our bodies are not those of 20-somethings, our commitments are not those of 20-somethings and our awareness of what can go wrong are hard to put aside. We have others who rely on us, and we believe our time is not our own.There in lies the shift in the risk/reward trade-off as we age.
It was so worth it for my husband and I to drive from New York to Utah last December in the midst of Covid because we felt the risk was not worth saying no to the adventure as the reward was too great. After feeling so shut down and cut off from family, we decided we wanted to hit the road, see our kids in Chicago and be closer to our kids in LA. And, we decided we could survive the drive never realizing we would LOVE the road trip as much as we did. And as we drove we felt stronger and more empowered rather than sitting at home wondering, “should we go?”
And now, most recently, this August, as the Delta Variant presents the risk of getting sick, we are forced to evaluate the risk vs the reward of showing up at events, travel, family get togethers and going out to restaurants. And we are all reassessing what we can manage in terms of risk because the truth is, as the clock ticks forward, missing out and sitting on the side-lines to wait out this virus, as the fear builds may result in not stepping into our lives in ways that feel vital. And we are not easily giving up that reward.
This assessment is a constant and the dance continues as we stand in the balance, perhaps in our tree pose on one leg working hard to steady ourselves.