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Healthy Risk

Many of us have lives that are, in some areas at least, risk-free. We may have even cultivated these risk-free lives because we think we want stress-free lives. But while stress from negative situations can be damaging, stress from confronting challenges or taking a healthy risk can be energizing and motivating. When our lives feel lackluster, it can help to ask ourselves if there is a creative risk we could take but are not taking. A little healthy risk goes a long way toward giving us a rewarding sense of aliveness.

It is important to remember that risks can take many forms. The possibilities are unlimited, yet we ourselves contain the answer to the risk we’d like to take. The answer is ours alone to define. Making art always involves risk, and the reward in artistic actions is experience and a body of work. Artists, as Agnes DeMille famously said, “take leap after leap in the dark.” When I first wanted to write songs, it felt like a great risk to sit down and begin. But, meeting my own challenge, daring to risk showing up at the piano and writing— whether it was “good” writing or not— I showed up for myself and eventually built a very large body of work. Many of my songs went on to be performed. I am now in the process of recording an album. Had I not dared to write that first song, what a different place I would be in today.

When I was little, my pony Chico could out-jump many horses. It was always a risk, taking him in a jumpers’ class. But it was a risk I learned to take and enjoy. Often, Chico emerged victorious. And if he didn’t, we still had the self-respect of having tried. I still take pride in the courage I was willing to display, arriving at the class week after week. Jumping a horse mirrors any other risk; once you aim for the jump, there’s no turning back. Making the decision and then acting on it brings a great sense of momentum and satisfaction. I still refer to risks I take in my life today as “jumps.” A day might contain many “jumps”— a live interview where I have to be “on,” a difficult phone call, a large travel agenda. But I have learned to take these “jumps,” and learned, too, that I nearly always land on my feet.

from It's Never Too Late to Begin Again


5 Comments on "Healthy Risk"

  1. Your words really resonate with me as I prepare to retire in a few months time. The idea that there can be a “healthy” risk is a new thought for me and one that I welcome as I consider new adventures. Thank you!

  2. How great! How useful! wondered what you were up to – thank you for leading the way and accompanying me in my life´s path – career only in the sense of “careering wildly” – much love and respect due

  3. I was so thrilled to see that you have a blog! I have all your books on these funny hexigon-shaped shelves on the wall next to my bed and whenever I feel cruddy, I pick one up and read it. Love your stuff. You are an angel for the struggle in all of us!

    This post in particular is so timely. I am experiencing huge success right now in my business and writing career and I know I need to leap and leap and leap but, man, doesn’t it feel good in the comfortable space of stasis?

    Pushing, always pushing is what I’ve committed to. But I’m afraid.

  4. I am not so old yet for retirement (52), but I feel like this. In this life-phase, I am not able to move or take risks. It is the energy that I am missing. I do not understand why I am so weak. Everyday I need to balance myself, also more when I work. When I was young, I had so much energy. Now I feel like an empty balloon. I followed the artist’s way and I am so happy that I found it! It helps me a lot, also to find other possibilities in myself for living. And how to find a way to go in to the world for showing my painting..I ordered your new book and I am glad to read it. Thank you for this special way to find creativity again.

  5. How do you balance risk with consequence? I see the rewards many risks take but I also see consequences that are often out of our control and can be devastating. Often, speaking and writing our truth alienates those we are trying to help. When is truth telling too risky?

    I love your books. A friend turned me onto The Artist’s Way months ago, I am currently on the chapter about Honesty in the Right to Write and will be ordering your new book. Thank you for your insight and beautiful writing. They have opened up a very closed door I have had to examine in my life.

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