We don’t get anywhere in life by sticking with what’s comfortable. To make progress and work towards success in not only our journeys through mental health, but our journeys to become better people. That’s not to say there aren’t unacceptable risks that we should not take, but anxiety distorts our perception and overestimates risk.
Let’s say you find yourself needing to cross a busy street. An acceptable risk is looking both ways and paying attention to if cars are coming, if someone is going to stop for you, all the stuff we learned as kids about crossing the street. An unacceptable risk is just crossing, stepping out into traffic, and not paying any attention to your surroundings. Now crossing the street in the first example isn’t 100% risk-free, but we deem it as an acceptable risk because the chances of something bad happening are very, very low. Anxiety however can take that non-zero risk and blow it out of proportion, and exaggerate the danger you’re in.
I’m in the midst of taking a very large risk, but one that could be extremely beneficial to my life. It’s something I’ve flirted with for years, but I was always terrified to take the plunge. While my career so far has been centered around graphic design and print, I’ve struggled to find my place. After being on the job market for almost 8 months now, I decided maybe it was time to make a change.
So I broke down and applied to an online coding boot camp on a whim the other day. It’s a six-month program that covers programming and software engineering, with the goal of getting a job in the industry. This will be huge, it’s definitely way outside my comfort zone as my experience with code consists of HTML and CSS, the languages that make the websites you use look and feel the way they do, and my attempts to learn more complex languages and concepts haven’t gone very well.
The anxiety tells me I’m making a mistake, that throwing away everything I’ve done for the last decade and starting anew is a disaster waiting to happen. It feels like crossing the street without looking, but logically I know it’s not as dangerous as I perceive it to be. Worst case scenario is I can’t do it, I flunk out and I’m back to where I am now and that’s ok, it’s not going to ruin my life. But the best case is my life changes for the better, and I start a new career that I can hopefully find more success in.
What risks are you not taking, and why? Are not taking those risks holding you back from your true potential? Sound off in the comments!