Why The Safe Path Is Dangerous

Why the Safe Path Is DangerousYesterday a reader commented on my article, The Risks Of Not Taking Risks. In his comment, he stated that he had always taken the safe path with little or nothing to show for it, proving to me, that in the end, the safe path isn’t so safe after all.

As I told the reader, really, there is nothing wrong with the safe path because well, it’s safe, that is until it isn’t anymore. As non-threatening as the safe-path may seem as you are on it, there are many hidden costs along the way and this is why the safe path is dangerous.

Let me explain… as the reader said, he has always taken the safe path. He sounds like he has lived his life following the rules, being responsible, getting an education (he has three degrees) yet after playing life by the rules, he also feels that he has never gotten ahead.

His dedication to staying on the safe path, working, going to school, playing by the rules, has indeed kept him out of trouble, and he has probably had an easy simple life until now. Now… now is when the safe path can bite you in the butt with feelings of regret and or just not being where you want or hoped to be in life.

As the line in the movie, This is Where I Leave You says… “I spent my entire life playing it safe just to avoid being exactly where I am right now.”

So maybe the safe path isn’t the safest path after all.

The reader asked me, where’s the balance that can get a person ahead in life. My interpretation of that question is that he really wants to know is how can you balance risk and safety in such a way that you risk enough to get ahead but no so much that you potentially lose everything.

To be honest, I don’t have a clear answer because everyone has a different tolerance for risk and that tolerance can be different for each of us at different times in our lives. How do you balance risk and safety then? I’ll just use my favorite answer from college and say… “It depends.”

What I do know is this… if you have stayed on the safe path and find yourself unhappy or dissatisfied with how things have turned out, this is not exactly a bad thing, not at all. You now have the choice to do things differently. If you are looking back and sensing regret over certain decisions or inaction, use that as a guide to aid you in the future. Do not wallow in the regret of course, but use it to do things differently from now on.

Only you can know where the balance between risk and safety is in your life but if you can look backwards from where you are and you can be satisfied with not only where you are but also how you got there, then I think you might have found the balance that works for you.

Using myself as an example here… your results may vary… My life the past two years has been nothing BUT risk! And to be honest, I don’t even know where my safe path is anymore. I suppose I know where it is and what it looks like but I don’t want to think about it too much as taking the risky path, every day, though scary as hell at times is the most rewarding for me; not rewarding financially as much as it is rewarding in terms of the quality of my life.

After years of straying from the safe path and assuming a lot of personal risk along the way – I have found my balance between the two and what I have come to believe is that risk is important for life as it thwarts boredom, routine, ruts, and ultimately leads to a happier life.

What I have learned, and how I mange my balance between risk and staying on the safe path is that when it comes to taking action, the next thing that I need to do that doesn’t feel safe, or the thing that scares me the most is exactly the next thing that I need to do. It makes sense… do the thing you are comfortable with you will stay right where you are. Do the thing that scares you and you are going to be somewhere completely different and more than likely ahead of where you just were.

The safe path is good and there is nothing wrong with it, but as my reader pointed out, staying on the safe path has its disadvantages. Just as they teach in any economics class anywhere… “with risk comes reward.” The good news is this, if you are feeling stuck and the safe path no longer serves you, you always have the choice to break out of that, make some different decisions, take some risks, and ultimately change the outcome of your life. It’s never too late for that!

Wouldn’t you rather live a life of “Oh Wells” rather than a life of “What Ifs”?

Andy Wooten M.A. Counseling – Certified Life Coach – Aspen, Colorado

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Photo By Andy Wooten 07 August 2010

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