Gratitude is a pretty popular topic in psychological and mental health circles. Gratitude experts have found striking benefits of practicing gratitude. An article posted on psychologytoday.com sites 7 benefits of gratitude: (1) Open door to more relationships, (2) Improved physical health, (3), Improved psychological health, (3) Enhanced empathy and reduced aggression, (5) better sleep, (6) Improved self-esteem, and (7) Increased mental strength. You can read the article here.
All those benefits are great. Who wouldn’t want those gains? But how do I get to the point where those benefits are noticeable or how long will it take? As I take time to write and muse about gratitude, I find myself wanting to not only “do” or list things I am grateful for to acquire the benefits of gratitude, but rather cultivate a lifestyle and spirit of gratitude first, and have the benefits be a secondary gain.
Today I am grateful for friends, opportunity, and hope. What are you grateful for?
I am not talking about the kind of dare that ends with Anne of Green Gables falling off of a ledge and twisting her ankle (If you do not know what I am referring to, you might want to watch the BBC version of Anne of Green Gables). I am talking about the kind of dare that puts you just outside of your comfort zone and forces you to expand your wingspan of life.
I have been on a journey to create my life and dare to ask of life things that I have otherwise been too shy to speak into existence. It is scary to hope and try without any guarantees about the outcome. It is way easier to be passive and let life happen, rather than take action and make life happen. I am learning to be more active and create things in my life that I dare to want.
As I have been reflecting on risks and dares, Sara Bareilles’ new song “If I Dare” came out and it fits beautifully into my reflections. It will be my new theme song for awhile. I have listened to the song over a hundred times by now, and I yearn to hold onto the boldness with which the lyrics speak.
However, as I lean into daring, I find darker parts emerging – fear, fearing that things are not possible, telling myself to stop dreaming, stop wanting, stop hoping. As I lean into risks, dares, and hope, I find fear and hopelessness standing nearby, beckoning me to keep my feet planted on the floor.
Growth and resistance. These concepts go hand in hand. As I grow, shift, and change, there is another part that resists – resists change, resists growth, thinks that wherever I am is fine just the way it is. And maybe it is fine the way it is. But I am not aiming for fine. I am aiming for more than fine, maybe even great.
So not only do I dare for growth and change, I dare to lean into growth that will inevitably dispense some resistance with it. But there is no growth without pain – it is called growing pains after all. But I refuse to let growing pains stop me from living the life I want.
Risk is scary. No, actually it is terrifying. For example, writing blog posts is risky. Will the post speak to people? Will it be helpful? Will anyone read it? Well, what is the worse thing that could happen?
I don’t know about you, but even the word “risk” elevates my anxiety. The word ‘risk,’ unassociated with any action, elevates my heart rate and leads me to take shallow breaths. Risk is terrifying.
Merriam-Webster defines risk as “the possibility of loss or injury.” No one wants to lose things or get injured. Loss and injury hurt. So it makes sense that I have a tendency to avoid risks.
But here is the thing I am slowly learning, there is another side to risk that is not often discussed - the possibility of gain.
What if, on the other side of risk is not only the possibility for loss, but the possibility of gain?
It is definitely a different way of thinking and for me, brings forth a level of excitement. But excitement and anxiety feel similarly in my body, so even thinking about the possibility of gain my breath is still shallow, and my heart is beating fast. Even though my body is reacting similarly, thinking about the possible gains of risk makes risk a little less terrifying, and even the tiniest bit more palatable. It makes the things that I want in life seem possible, and I don't know about you, but I could always use a little more hope.
It is not my default to consider that risk can result in gain. My default is to believe that risk will result in loss. I am so focused on the potential hurt, and avoiding potential hurt that I have missed out on opportunities. And as I walk into my current stage of life, I am longing for opportunities - opportunities to create the life I want. And that is going to involve risk. This might very well come with loss, or even a lot of loss, but, it also might come with gain, or even a lot of gain. No one can predict the amount of loss or gain - you, and I, just have to jump.
"What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?”