Hope, risk, and never growing old

Where is the challenge in your life? Is fear paralysing you from stepping out? There is an alternative way to dealing with risk.

I remember being 13 years old and standing at the top of a snowy mountain in Scotland, looking over a wind-blown cornice into a 10 foot drop and an off-piste track.  I was a beginner skier and had never done anything like this before.  We stood there, five of us. We looked at the daunting but exciting challenge.

Could we do it? Would we do it?  One of the group skied back down the piste, assuming we’d all follow.  Two made the jump.  My turn.  After an age of hesitation, I went for it, launched myself off the edge.

I flew. I fell.

It didn’t matter: I got back up again.

Then the delight, the adventure: we had a magnificent ski around the mountain in virgin snow.

That was when I was thirteen. But have you noticed how as we get older, the tendency to embrace security and the predictable starts to grow?

Job, family, mortgage, commitments – and we can start to feel it’s too risky to change things. Whether it’s a big thing like a career change or a small thing like an extra commitment, we can gradually feel trapped by fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Take this blog as a small example. Is Purposeful People worth the investment of time? Will people laugh at what a write? Can I build this into something genuinely helpful and significant? Dare I press ‘Publish’ on this or any other post? Will I make that jump, or head back to more familiar slopes?

There is no need to grow old!

General Douglas MacArthur was a US Army General in WWII, and he gave a speech so often it became known as his ‘credo’. It is a reminder that we can choose the ‘faith of youth’ over the ‘fear of the old’. And step out towards what matters, towards your ideals, despite the fear and risk.

Read it and savour it.

“Youth is not entirely a time of life – it is a state of mind.

It is not wholly a matter of ripe cheeks, red lips or supple knees. It is a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigour of the emotions, a freshness of the deep springs of life. It means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, of an appetite for adventure over love of ease.

Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years. People grow old only by deserting their ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up interest wrinkles the soul.

Worry, doubt, self-distrust, fear and despair – these are the long, long years that bow the head and turn the growing spirit back to dust. Whatever your years, there is in every being’s heart the love of wonder, the undaunted challenge of events, the unfailing child-like appetite for what next, and the joy in the game of life.

You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt;

as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear;

as young as your hope, as old as your despair.

In the central place of every heart there is a recording chamber; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer and courage, so long are you young.

When the wires are all down and your heart is covered with the moss of pessimism and the ice of cynicism, then, and then only, are you grown old.”

The invisible risk of inaction

The most experienced skier of our group didn’t make the jump.  She watched us all and then turned away.  We still joke about it; she still regrets it.  Luckily it was just a ski run.  The bigger question for us is whether we make the jump in our lives.

I’m not advocating recklessness. But risks aren’t always as risky as they seem, and the invisible risk of inaction can actually be worse than the visible risk of action.

So I am advocating that we live lives of faith and hope and not fear and doubt. Let’s be bold!

What is the jump ahead of you?  Where do you need to choose faith over doubt, self-confidence over fear, hope over despair?  How have you conquered these mental barriers in the past? Please share your thoughts below.

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