Playing it Safe

I’m not much of a baseball fan and I’m a lousy softball player.  The whole hand-eye coordination thing seems to elude me and always has.  Still, I got to thinking about how I used to play the game back in my school days; hanging out for as long as I could on a base until the rest were fully loaded and I was forced to move – either to the next base or all the way home to score a run for our team.  I didn’t view third base as my best opportunity for scoring a win, but instead viewed it as an opportunity for the other team to strike me out…a mortifying thought at the time.

What I didn’t understand then that we must eventually learn, is that you cannot win the game, whether softball or life, if you’re never willing to leave the base.  Try too hard to play it safe when an opening dictates a move, and you’ll not only miss out on all that life has to offer, but you risk holding back and/or bringing everyone else down around you, too.  At some point, if you want to live life to its fullest potential, you have to quit playing a defensive game and play to win.

There are those of us who either once were or are still experts at playing it safe.  We formulate a defensive strategy at the expense of running offensive plays.  Relentlessly planning, no stone is left unturned.  There is always a plan A.  And B.  Sometimes, there is even a plan C.  Turn-by-turn directions, we have everything all mapped out.  We follow a prescriptive plan for our life.  We build order and routine into our lives, sometimes to give us greater freedom in our ‘down’ time, but often to avoid the discomfort that comes with uncertainty.  And all too often, when something fails to go according to THE PLAN (which inevitably will happen), we scratch our heads in confusion, wonder what went wrong, and seek others to blame.  After all, we thought we had a foolproof PLAN.

But winning is not about playing it safe.  It’s about staying open to opportunity and taking calculated risks.  It’s about stepping out of the known and into the unknown.  It’s about vision, conviction, tenacity, faith, and the courage to act instead of simply re-act.  It’s about playing big, not small. Sometimes, winning even demands that we first lose, perhaps many times, though it is often during these times we discover that what may perhaps look like defeat or failure, is actually an opportunity to discover, uncover or recover our greatest gifts.

These are the pivotal moments in life.  The ones where we can choose…to play it safe – to fearfully cling to our bases until we are forced to move, or to boldly step up and out, opening ourselves to the possibility of greatness.

I’m curious…

How do you live your life? Do you cling to the bases, or run boldly towards home plate when an opening presents itself?  Do you allow fear and the possibility of failure to hold you back, or do view them as an opportunity to learn and grow? What risks are you willing to assume to live your purpose to its highest potential?

Postscript:  The drive to ‘win’ I write of is not so much about the relentless pursuit of a single goal or unbridled ambition.  Rather, it is about courageously seeking ways to live our life to its fullest purpose and potential in all that we do – living our values in our every day walk, constructively using our gifts and talents, while honoring those we journey with.

4 thoughts on “Playing it Safe

  1. It seems we go from one extreme to the other when it comes to taking risks. I used to be completely reckless back in high school, to then being very tentative once I left college. Finding that balance between the two can help big time!

    I heard once that “calculated risks are the best risks you can take”. And I agree 100%

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    • I believe a risk moves from ‘risky’ to ‘responsible’ when we are clear about who we are, what we stand for, and where we are trying to go. It’s also a matter of timing – waiting for the right opening, and then moving with conviction when the opportunity calls. Like most things in life, I’ve found that the right answer is often found in the balanced centered of two extremes. Thanks for joining the conversation, Juan!

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  2. Hope can be a great counterbalance to fear and playing it safe, don’t you think? Hope can move us to take action, because it helps us see the possibilities ahead.
    Thanks for this thoughtful post –

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    • Elizabeth – I love that you are committed to writing about and sharing hope with others, because it is the trifecta foundation of hope, faith, and love provide us with the courage needed to step out of the ‘safety’ zone of fear and security and into the full range of possibilities for our lives.
      Keep up the great work you are doing through your web site! -Sharon

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