Eight years ago when I was living in Jersey City, I attended a half-day New Year’s yoga retreat. The facilitator asked the group to identify three people we admired. Then she asked us to consider three traits they had in common. All the people I selected were having a great deal of impact in the education world at the time. I noticed that they all were visionaries, dogged, and risk takers. Of these three characteristics, I knew I needed courage the most. If I were gong to make any of my dreams come true, I had to become a risk taker. This would not be easy.
I was raised to avoid risks at all cost. Numerous times growing up I heard, “A bird in the hand is better than two in the bush.” By this, my mother meant I was better off with a guaranteed, sure thing that may not be all that I desired than the mere prospect of more that might never materialize. I don’t think she was trying to fill me with timidity. In fact, my mom was an entrepreneur herself, so she understood the value of taking chances. I think she just wanted me to have a good job with a nice salary and generous benefits so I could avoid some of the challenges she had encountered. My father concurred.
Growing up, my mom’s business went up and down with the nation’s economic cycles. When times across the country were good (the 1980s, late 1990s and early 2000s), she flourished. When things were harder for everyone (namely the recessions of 1991 and 2008), business suffered. I hated those ups and downs, and the changes they brought to our lives. I looked for as much income security as I could find when I entered the workforce; I became a teacher. After I learned I had lupus, I began to value good health insurance even more than that reliable salary.
But the yoga mini retreat shifted my thinking. I consciously decided to invite a little bit of risk into my life. I went on my first solo vacation—to Annie’s son’s apartment in the Dominican Republic. I was limited in what I could do alone—no late night adventures or trips into the rainforest—but I had a phenomenal time. Being by myself, and having plenty of time to spend with my thoughts and dreams, was probably the second best part of the trip. Being able to shed my layers of winter clothing for a week definitely was the best.
When I returned from my vacation, I took another risk. I asked my supervisor to transfer to our DC office. I had fallen in love with Washington as a middle school student, coming to visit my father when he lived here. I wanted to go to Georgetown for college. When that didn’t happen, I moved to DC right after school, hoping to find a job. I had wanted to live in the nation’s capital for more than 20 years, but things never panned out. Now, working as a consultant for an ed tech company, I traveled a lot. In my mind, it shouldn’t matter where I called home, since I was always on the road. I reasoned I could board a plane or train in Washington just as easily as I could in Newark. My manager found my reasoning sound and allowed me to transfer.
That’s how it started—with the tiniest of risks: going on vacation alone, requesting a transfer, moving to a new city. With the success of each risk, I grew more confident in my decision-making. I allowed myself to dream bigger, feeling inspired by God. If He really wanted my dreams to come true, then I had to take the first step to make them happen. I bought a house (on my own), took several more solo vacations (Martha’s Vineyard, New Orleans, Spain), and decided to become an entrepreneur (the biggest risk of all). I opened a yoga studio and pursued projects as an independent education consultant to support my studio—and give me the needed time to make it prosper. I gave that studio everything I had for as long as I could. When I knew I couldn’t make it succeed, I closed the doors.
My “failure” hasn’t caused me to pull back and avoid risk. In fact, I am on the brink of making the most daring move of my life. I have done everything I can do to set the wheels in motion. Now I wait on the decisions of others. [Once things become clear, I will be sure to share my plans on this blog. For now, it’s premature.]
Like so much of life, becoming a risk taker doesn’t happen overnight. One small step toward my goals encouraged me to take another, an even bigger one. As I found success with each succeeding step, my confidence grew. I became more willing to put myself out there. Along the way, I adopted this quote from Nora Roberts as my personal motto to keep me going:
If you don't go after what you want, you'll never have it.
Crystal Moore began her wellness quest in 2003 after being diagnosed with lupus. Her quest has led her to embrace yoga, faith, exercise, healthy eating, and relationships. Share her journey.