Oak trees in the wild are messy things. Before I knew this I thought that oaks were these lone wolf sculpted trees with long clean trunks and a large canopy of round green foliage…kind of like the ones you see on a fancy wine bottle label. In reality a wild oak tree’s branches hang low and rest on the ground, sprawled out like a giant octopus. From a distance it looks like a big untidy bush and bramble. It’s all over the place. What I’ve since learned is that those tentacle like branches act as anchors for the tree and stabilize it in storms and heavy winds. That messy support structure is the reason it’s still standing and means it’s healthy. The human pruned, lone oak trees in the middle of a green field may look beautiful and statuesque, but they have a much high failure rate because they lack the stabilizing octopus support network.
It’s the same for humans. We are more resilient and stronger with a messy support network. Together we are stronger. Put down roots, build a community, lean on people, be vulnerable even if it’s messy. It’ll sustain you in the long run and it’s healthy.
The more you exercise the risk muscle, the more comfortable you get with the feeling of risk. It’s about being okay with the unknown and still operating day to day. Every day you operate with risk is one more day you become accustomed to the new normal.
Risk is the feeling in the pit of your stomach when there’s uncertainty and a future unknown. Mastering risk is the ability to keep moving forward even though you have a knot in your stomach. Some people get that feeling and freeze. They slowly back away the tip of the diving board and climb down the ladder. Others feel their gut twist, swallow, inhale and take the plunge anyway. Every time the jump gets easier, and the gut twist gets less paralyzing.
The most successful people I know have a high level of output AND are comfortable living with risk everyday.
Make the ordinary extraordinary
“Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”
– Francis Chan
Don’t over intellectualize decisions. If your values and goals are aligned with your actions then it’ll feel right. It sounds simple, because it is simple.
When you have alignment you don’t spend energy rationalizing or justifying decisions. Your joy and energy levels increase and you gain momentum towards your goals. Drop the hand brake, pull up the anchor, lift up your feet and enjoy the flow.
As we enter the first days of Spring, there’s an urge to make big decisions about the upcoming season. It’s anything from career, family, finances and personal growth. Before we make a big decision, we get physically and mentally fit.
When we are fit we have less stress and are more present. Our muscles and brain are oxygenated and we think more clearly. Worries and fears are less magnified and we have a good sense of what is real vs. imaginary (most of it’s imaginary, by the way).
Going for a walk, meditating, taking deep diaphragm inhales and exhales…as well as toe breathing, where we feel the inhalations inflate our toes – are fun exercises we enjoy to breath more deeply.
When fit, we find decisions emerge from a more grounded and present place.
Here’s a quick morning stretching exercise. Actually you can do it anywhere, while waiting for a bus, standing in line for lunch or cooking over the stove.
Stand up straight and imagine a string attached to the top of your head. The string slowly tightens and lifts up your head and extends your neck. You are getting taller and taller as your neck and spine extend. Keep your eyes level and shoulders and jaw relaxed.
At the same time plant your feet firmly on the ground and apply pressure to your heels rooting them to the floor. Wriggle your toes and feel the ground.
You now have your head and neck extending like an ostrich and are anchored to the ground like an oak tree.
As you grow taller, every joint opens up from your knees, hips, spine, chest and neck.
Take 3 deep inhales and exhales while in this posture.