By Judi Neal
One of the things that distinguishes Edgewalkers, those who walk on the leading edge, is their willingness to take risks that others might not. I define healthy risk-taking as; “The ability to try what hasn’t been tried before, to trust your instincts, and to break new ground.” Because of their interest in exploring what’s over the horizon and their passion for creating something new, Edgewalkers are likely to take calibrated risks in service of making a difference. With the Edgwalkers I have interviewed, it is not unusual to hear that they have made major changes in their lives. One successful artist destroyed all his work one night and went off to live on an island in Puget Sound to go more deeply into what wanted to emerge through him. A year later he began making art again and his work was more three-dimensional and powerful than ever before. Business leaders have bet the farm on a new product or service. Others have been willing to move to an unknown place because something was calling. Some have closed down or sold companies that became too constraining for where their spirit was leading them.
However, not all risk-taking is made up of dramatic life-changes. Sometimes the risk can be a small act that makes a huge difference. It can be the choice to listen deeply rather than lecturing or trying to control a person. It can be a choice to be vulnerable and to speak your truth to another, even if it might endanger the relationship. It can even be a choice to sit still and just be with yourself and your anxiety when you would rather be up and busy doing anything but listening to your own still, small voice.
It’s important to caliberate between risk-taking and risky behavior. When I talk about risk-taking, the context is taking action in service of something greater. Edgewalkers, in their risk-taking, are responding to a vision of something they want to manifest, and they are willing to do what it takes to create something that has never existed before. They feel a sense of calling and are willing to make the necessary sacrifices to fulfill their destiny.
Risky behavior, on the other hand, comes from the ego and is often not healthy. It is done in the service of thrill-seeking and selfish pleasure. It does not consider the impact on others. I am not talking here of extreme athletes and others who want to push the boundaries of human potential. I am talking about behavior that puts self and others in potential danger. Street racing, drinking games, risky sexual behavior, gambling are examples of unhealthy risky behavior. At the moment they might make someone feel more fully alive, but there is a good chance of potential harm and long-term consequences.
In these days of Covid-19, I have chosen to take zero risk. I have work that matters to me now and in the future, and I want to be healthy and alive to do it. I don’t socialize, even outdoors. I don’t travel, even though I miss my family and friends. I wear a mask, even if I’m just walking on my street. I am calibrating my personal risk very tightly because the negative repercussions on my loved ones and on the work I’m called to do are potentially too high to be worth even the slightest risk. These are my personal decisions and are based on my calibration of the costs vs. gains. Each person has to make their own calibration of the level of risk that works for them in their situation.
A key guiding question is “Am I doing this in the service of what I’m called to do, or is this just for the momentary thrill and pleasure of it?” Your gut and your heart will know the right answer.