I’ve never been much of a risk-taker. I always played by the rules, colored inside the lines, and did what I was told (for the most part, at least). My life was pretty predictable.
Then one day about a year ago, I looked around and was hit with a pretty big eye-opener: My life was no different that day than it had been the year before.
As someone who is passionate about learning and growing, realizing this was like a punch to the gut. I might've thought I was growing personally and professionally, but I really wasn't making the kinds of leaps I wanted to be. I was playing small.
So with a courageous and open heart, I made a commitment to taking more risks—big ones, small ones, crazy ones, and, heck, maybe even some stupid ones.
Here are the risks that have really paid off for me, which I invite you to start taking in your own life:
1. Speak your truth.
Though I didn't realize it for a while, this has been a lifelong practice for me. When I was in my teens, I didn’t feel like I had a safe space to air my thoughts and feelings, so I wrote. My journal was (and still is) a place for me to be who I was and speak my unscripted truth. I didn’t have to choose my words wisely, and no one had to listen or judge. I didn’t have to wear a mask.
Brené Brown says being authentic is about being seen. It’s a conscious choice to allow people to really see who you are—to be real.
Letting people truly see the weird, funny, honest, and foul-mouthed me (outside of my journal) has been a giant risk. I worry, “What if people don’t like the real Ashley?” Or, “What if I'm too much for people?” "What if people think I’m crazy?”
Well, who would I be if I didn't allow myself to be truly authentic? That was a risk I was no longer willing to take. In the long run, it’s so much more important for me to like who I am than to waste my time and energy trying to be someone else.
2. Invest in the person you want to be.
I can confidently say that the person I was one year ago is not the person I am today. That's because I’ve invested in my future self—not the person who played it safe and kept her mouth shut. I invested in the empowered, authentic, wild, successful future me.
I hired a business coach because the future me wants to continually reach more women with my message and change more lives.
I created a 30-minute morning routine because I am much more productive and focused when I am grounded.
I signed up for a yoga teacher training, because the future me wants to teach others how to love their bodies through yoga, just as I have been taught.
Investing doesn’t always mean blowing a bunch of money, and it definitely doesn't mean going into debt. You can invest in yourself by scheduling a short meditation every night, having a green smoothie for lunch, or reading a book instead of watching TV.
So, how can you invest in the future, awesome you?
Do you want to be a better communicator with your partner? Try couple’s counseling.
Want to be more creative? Take a calligraphy class.
Want more peace in your life? Sign up for that yoga retreat you’ve been drooling over for months.
Want more peace of mind? Buy a journal and let the pages have it!
3. Feel your feelings—all the way.
Our culture gives us so many opportunities to be distracted, it's become easier and easier to avoid negative feelings. Sadness, anger, frustration, embarrassment, disappointment, and fear are all incredibly vulnerable emotions, so we numb ourselves through social media, food, or alcohol.
I've definitely reached for a cupcake when I feel my cortisol levels surging, whiled away hours on Facebook to avoid budgeting, or had a couple of glasses of wine to take the edge off a tough day at work. But numbing our emotions through avoidant behaviors just exacerbates the problem.
Just like food, we must digest our emotions. Otherwise, like a stopped-up digestive system, unprocessed emotions can manifest as headaches, fatigue, irritation, anxiety attacks, and depression.
If we allow ourselves to feel our feelings and process our emotions (especially the not-so-good ones), they naturally dissipate and let us find our way back to an equilibrium that's so much better than an imbalance we are constantly running away from.
Feeling our feelings is risky business, and it doesn’t always feel good. But by letting ourselves "go there," we learn how to handle them, build self-trust, and master the essential tools for healing and living a joyful life.
So, the next time you find yourself trying to avoid a crummy emotion, explore the idea of feeling your way through it. Get curious about it, and probe yourself a bit further rather than just numbing it. My hunch is the outcome will be far worth the risk.