Growing up, I made my share of foolish mistakes.

As a kid, I remember being on a skateboard and holding on to a rope tied to a bike that a friend was riding. We got going pretty fast, and then I fell face forward on the pavement. My face was OK, but I skinned up my right wrist pretty badly, and still have the noticeable scar to prove it.

Another time, I climbed a backyard tree and jumped from one branch to another, planning to grab it with both hands. I grabbed it, lost my grip and landed flat on my back – falling about 10 feet. It knocked the wind out of me enough that my mom took me to the ER. A few months later, I did it again – the same stunt – causing a second trip to the hospital.

I could go on; as I’m sure we all can when we look back on our life. These are just a few lighter examples of foolish behavior to illustrate how sometimes we get lucky (or not) in situations where the outcome could have been much worse.

Calculated Risks

Calculated risks are different. They involve decisions we make to try something new or novel. It is putting concerted energy towards something that will improve our life satisfaction – a conscious decision to improve ourselves through self-exploration, learning, or perfecting a skill or craft, etc.

Calculated risks aren’t foolish but the hoped-for outcomes aren’t guaranteed. My favorite example is going back to school. I once worked at a community college where one of my roles was to help displaced workers find new jobs or careers. It was scary and challenging for them; often they were middle-aged and had only known one job.

With encouragement, some went back to school and pursued a completely new and often quite challenging career. By taking a calculated risk, they discovered meaningful work that was satisfying personally, professionally and financially. Some commented that in retrospect they had never been happier. Losing their employment led them to pursue more meaningful work for perhaps the first time in their lives.

Taking a Leap of Faith

Perhaps it’s time for you to take a calculated risk. Maybe your life could be enriched by learning a second language, trying out for a community theater production, ending a dismal relationship, or having the courage to be vulnerable and start a new relationship.

It can be scary to think about doing something new, but it can also be rewarding. If you’re thinking about it, take the next step. Talk to a friend, do some research or consider visiting with a counselor to help sort things out. Taking that leap of faith just might be the best thing you do in life.

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Tom Cardwell, PhD

Tom Cardwell, PhD

Licensed Psychologist, Bryan Counseling Center

Dr. Tom Cardwell provides treatment for people of all ages. He offers individual and family therapy to help with stress, anxiety, mood and adjustment disorders. Dr. Cardwell has expertise in gerontology and the assessment and treatment of substance abuse and addictions. He enjoys helping people work through life transitions of all kinds. He is interested in helping people improve their lives by learning to be as mentally and physically healthy as possible at every age.

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