“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” Helen Keller is quoted often in motivational articles to show that anything is possible. Despite enormous physical limitations, Helen Keller rises above her inability to see or hear to live an extraordinary life.
Her actual quote is actually a bit longer. She said, “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”
This message has changed for me over the years. Originally I viewed it as a call to action. A reason to take on risks of all types in order to experience the adventure life has to offer. I assumed that this meant I should take on more risk and be willing to constantly jump from adventure to adventure.
But as I get older I realize that this may be too extreme. It seems I am taking this a little too far. It doesn’t mean to take unnecessary risks and extreme risks. To me it simply means that avoiding risk all together is a bad idea because you can never truly eliminate the potential for harm.
The reality is that there is an inherent risk in all that we do. Whether we are driving to the grocery store or taking a flight to a vacation spot there exists an element of risk. We can get the probability of disaster down, but not to absolute zero.
Instead of trying to find additional risk, I feel it is more important to have a clear vision of where you are going and why you are doing what you are doing. Trying to eliminate risk would mean never driving in a car or flying in airplane. But these things are normal parts of our lives and removing them due to a slight increase in risk is meaningless. Even if we stayed in our home and never left, we still live in a world full of risks. A storm can rise up at any time and level a house. A disease can start to spread and infect hundreds of people.
Eliminating risks is impossible and looking for unnecessary risks is unwise. The truth is that we have to realize that life is about balancing risk. We have to understand that risk will be there but can be managed.
The shift in understanding for me hasn’t just been about knowledge. It has been displayed in my actions as well. In my twenties I would seek out adventure. I would start a business or try to find ways to take on additional risk. I would jump from thing to thing without any real understanding that I wasn’t making progress.
Now I realize that life is about improvement. Improving means taking on risks when necessary and not ignoring risk. The best way to improve is by making progress through very small improvements over time. These small steps allow us to turn positive actions into habits. Then these habits start to develop our overall personality. This starts to mold our values. When we have alignment with our actions (habits), our personality (who we are), and our values (what we believe in), we can start to make progress in our life. We start to experience the adventure of life and the excitement of growth.