Sunday, August 12, 2007

Risky Business

Back in the summer of 1972, "Stuck In The Middle With You" was a hit for a band called Stealers Wheel -- the song was written by bandmates Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan. Know the lyrics?

"Well I don't know why I came here tonight
I got the feeling that something ain't right
I'm so scared in case I'll fall off my chair
And I'm wondering how I'll get down the stairs
Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am
Stuck in the middle with you

"Yes I'm stuck in the middle with you
And I'm wondering what it is I should do
It's so hard to keep this smile from my face
Losing control yeah, I'm all over the place
Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am
Stuck in the middle with you."

It's no fun being stuck between clowns and jokers. Feels like whatever way you go, you'll lose. Nothing will ever change. Net effect? You stay on your chair, trying desperately not to fall off.

When you're stuck -- stuck like Krazy Glue, or in a rut that's so deep you can't see a way out -- you could take a stab at writing a hit song... or, you could just try something else.

That's my advice. That's all. Just try something else. Something risky.

Risk, I've found, is the best way to overcome being stuck. Taking a small risk every day moves you, perhaps ever so slightly away from your fear and toward happiness. Taking a small risk every day inches your comfort zone out just a tad. Before you know it, you're no longer stuck -- you're out and moving, and have left the clowns and jokers behind.

I often suggest people go up to that which troubles them the most and shake that fear's hand. Often, the fear's not so big, bad and scary when you look it in the eye. Let's say your biggest stuck area is at work. You feel you can't say what needs to be said, that you are not respected and are taken for granted. Sound familiar?

So you need to get heard and have your voice respected. Big goal. Let's break it down into smaller bits...OK, for you, a teeny tiny risk might be to make a point at a meeting. Just one. You don't have to execute a coup d'etat, or monopolize, or bust heads. Just take a teeny tiny risk by speaking up instead of sitting and seething, and begin to claim your power.

Granted, ideas about what a risk is may differ widely. Volunteering to honcho a project at work may seem a huge risk to the introvert. A woman who does so much for others could find her risk in buying herself something nice. A man who worries that the life has gone out of his marriage may take a risk when he tells his wife he loves and admires her and wants the marriage to work. The widow make make her risk when she picks up the phone and connects with a friend.

How do you know if it's a risk? If it feels like a risk, it probably is. For me, risk feels like a little frisson of anxiety that bubbles in my belly, mixed with a tiny closure of the throat. But that's just me...

When I feel that feeling I know I'm facing a challenge -- and I try to push myself to address it. At least part of it. Remember, risk is about enlarging your comfort zone so you can grow and become fuller and more happy. Risk is not about hurting yourself or others. Taking a little risk every day is a discipline that pays off when you look at your life and realize, hey, there's nothing holding me back. I'm not afraid! I'm not stuck in the middle! The only folks still stuck there are the jokers and the clowns.

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