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Relaxing Into Risk
Most Thursday mornings you’ll find me in a co-working session with members of the Productive Flourishing Academy.
Part of the routine in our coworking sessions is to start off with a word pulled from a deck of motivational cards. My friend, the group leader, pulls the card, and the idea is to use the word that emerges to create alignment or a point of focus throughout your day.
When my turn came, she pulled the word “Relaxation”.
“I have a mountain of tasks ahead of me and I don’t have time to relax today,” was my instant reaction.
Luckily, I have my own set of this particular card deck, so before diving into the task I had planned (which ended up turning into this piece of writing) I decided to pull a new card. Take that, universe!
So what card did I pull?
Well-played, universe. Well-played.
Hustle Culture Tells Us: “You’ve Got to Work to Relax”
What am I supposed to do with these mixed messages? These two words — that are now at the forefront of my mind — seem to be at odds with one another.
As I moved into the work I had planned to do during this co-working session (namely a speech I had to give the following week for Toastmasters, a public speaking and leadership club I’m a part of in NYC), I couldn’t get these two words out of my head.
These ideas, risk and relaxation, don’t seem to fit together. More than that, they seem to be on opposite sides of the spectrum.
When I heard the word relaxation, what came to mind was an extreme state of rest, inaction, becoming sloth-like.
To enter a relaxed state is something too often we feel we need to earn. I’m allowed to just relax? Without doing anything or accomplishing anything first?
So when my friend pulled that card for me, I rebelled. Because I have a too-long list of things that need to get done (yep, violating the 5 Projects Rule) before I can even think about allowing myself to relax. Calm will have to wait.
I recognize this mentality runs counter to a lot of what has been written about here at PF, including pieces I myself have written. It just goes to show, we’re all in a constant state of learning and unlearning.
Risk, or Getting Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable
Still, relaxation is a self-care practice — and a necessity — we can all get behind. But risk? Risk seems to imply anything but rest and relaxation, and seems, well, downright dangerous.
Risk implies action, making a change, getting uncomfortable, and putting yourself in a position to fail (the horror!).
It’s inevitably scary to take a step in a new direction. Our minds and bodies perceive this newness as danger and set off all sorts of alarms to try to get us to do anything but this risky behavior — fight, flight, or freeze.
Taking action, no matter how big or small, is inherently risky.
Being Gentle with Ourselves: Ease Into Action & Risk
But what happens if I put these two words together? What if relaxation didn’t need to mean a full and complete stop to any activity, but instead it could mean an easing in?
And what if risk didn’t require actual danger but simply meant trying something new? What if it was just about easing into the discomfort of putting myself in a slightly different position than yesterday?
And as I was thinking all these thinks, and most definitely not writing my Toastmasters speech, it dawned on me that the exact combination of these themes — getting more comfortable (relaxation) with being uncomfortable (risk) — is one that continues to show up in my life.
A recent example: I’ve been starting to get back into writing. More specifically, I’m starting to share my writing more frequently. Risk.
I’m leaning more and more into my instinct, and how it relates to both writing and sharing; this article is an example. Relaxation.
Ease can be about letting go. Letting go of expectations, of perfectionism, of the outcome. And that is inherently risky. Where are you holding on too tight? What small action can you take today to move yourself closer to where you want to be?