Safety vs. Risk

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I am a super hero movie junkie.  One of my favorite scenes is in Iron Man 2, when Iron Man defeats the Vanko character by shooting his laser beam at his colleague’s laser beam.  This intense force resulted in an explosion and the defeat of the dreaded Vanko.

Safety and Risk clash in a similar fashion. They push against each other like a force field.  We often choose safety over risk, because it is after all safe.  Yet, it is not ideal and not best for our long term growth.

We often choose the immediacy of safety to avoid anxiety by choosing distraction.  For example: why not surf LinkedIn vs. moving toward difficult, focused and creative task?  I do this all too frequently. Instead move toward the difficult task because in the end it will move you closer to your vision.

As you review the graphic below, what are the common safety tasks or habits that you pursue regularly? This could include distractions and it could also include the skills that you have honed so expertly over the years.  What is critical for your growth is being willing to push the ‘force field’ and move toward the risk zone on the chart.


Essentially, the arrow on the left represents the “Quick and Easy” & the arrow on the right represents the “Steady Growth Over Time” – Quick Fix vs. Steady Growth – and “yes” sometimes failure.

I have found that there are three common barriers, which prevent us from pursuing our own growth and development:

1.) Certainty vs. Uncertainty:  This intense competition will continue for the rest of our lives.  We all long for some degree of certainty and yet the uncertainty of life is what captures our sense of adventure and aliveness.

Some examples of certainty include that steady and often large paycheck.  (They aren’t called Golden Handcuffs for nothing.) We may appreciate the certainty of our daily routine vs. the uncertainty of creating a new path for ourself.  Relationships can be a huge factor in keeping us in the midst of certainty.  If there is a risk that we may lose a current relationship, this may keep us in the certainty zone or safety zone.

2.) Lie of True Productivity:  We may deceive ourselves into believing that working hard devoid of our heart is true work.  How often have you showed up to work with your heart buried someplace else? Heart is enthusiasm, energy and interest.

You may be completing work found in the Safety Zone and yet not making real progress.  The high risk work includes moving into the unknown using a skill that has been suppressed or developing a new skill.

3.) Lie of Distraction:  Distractions can create immediate gratification.  Facebook “Likes” – LinkedIn – “Profile Views” & Twitter – “Retweets” get us all riled up.  Those are not negative in and of themselves. They just may keep you from the harder tasks of building relationships and risk taking new work.

I personally struggle the most with #3.  There is something about the world of social media that draws me in.   Clearly social media serves a great purpose and I often choose these adrenaline producing avenues over getting to the difficult work of developing something new, reaching out or offering to help.

The first step is to to be aware.  Plot a week at a time and outline the time you spend on the difficult tasks and recognize when you are running from the difficult or postponing the anxiety for something else.

The second step is to run to risk, knowing full well that this could mean failure and potentially being rejected. Your goal is not to have people accept you. It is however a great goal for you to find pleasure in your work and pursue risk, which leads to growth.

The third step is to run toward your preferred future and remind yourself of the vision.  Choosing to stay fixated on your vision, facilitates the process vs. being fixated on the quick immediate fixes.