Paul Cockayne – 07791 970406 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome to my counselling blog. You can find more information about me by clicking one of the links at the top of this page
Sometimes, when I sit down to write this blog, I have a clear idea about what I’m going to write about. On other occasions, like today, I have no real idea about where it is going to go.
It doesn’t matter, of course, because I am not committed to publishing this, and indeed can alter it as many times as I like before putting anything live. Nobody but me will know if I write nonsense and then delete it. I run no risk in sitting down to write in an unplanned way, I can ramble at will.
When our actions have no significant consequences it is easier to take risks, to experiment, to make mistakes. But we are doing things for a reason and we can end up being disappointed if we fail to meet whatever objective we might (perhaps subconsciously) set ourselves. If we are playing a computer game like “Candy Crush”, or trying to solve a Sudoku, it makes no real difference if we finish the level we are on, or complete the puzzle, or if we do not, but we can end up feeling frustrated or even angry if we fail. We can be harsh judges on ourselves – sometimes we can set ourselves impossibly high standards.
If our actions affect other people, the stakes tend to be higher, and so we are less likely to take a risk. Most of us need to work for a living, and so think carefully about leaving a job, generally ensuring that we have alternative employment before handing in our notice. This is not true of everyone, of course. Some people will make impulsive decisions and pick up the pieces later. They are perhaps more optimistic in outlook, believing that things will turn out for the best. More pessimistic souls might hang on in there, continuing with what they do for fear of a disaster if they change things.
Before embarking on a journey, some people take great care to plan their route. Going back a couple of weeks I blogged about maps and mentioned my father’s collection of road maps. Before a journey the relevant maps would be laid out on the living room floor and the route would be marked in pencil. My father liked to know exactly where he was going and how he was going to get there. Others, I am sure, would have been content to jump in the car and rely on road signs, on asking passers by, or just on muddling through.
Unfortunately for the planners among us, there are no detailed maps to help us with most of the decisions we face in life. I have worked with quite a few clients who find this quite disabling. They may be quite clear about where they want to go, but be completely frozen by the difficulty of knowing how to get there. What will be the ripple effect of their actions? How will others be affected? What will people think and say about them? What if they get it wrong? Their desire to plan things out in detail and think about all possible outcomes leaves them frozen – and they can remain stuck in a situation which is good for nobody, for fear that things will be worse if they make a change.
Risks, I think, tend to grow the more we think about them, and they can grow out of all proportion to reality. I remember a client who was unable to tell his partner about their financial difficulties because he knew she’d be upset. The worse things got, the more impossible it became for him to break the news, but then, of course, she was a lot more upset when she eventually found out than if he’d told her in the first place. Often, I think we underestimate other people’s ability to cope with bad news, feeling “They won’t be able to cope with it, whereas I can so it’s best not to tell them”.
I have rambled in an unplanned way to some sort of point – that taking risks is not as risky at it feels. There is nothing wrong with rambling, with exploring, with trial and error as a way of making most decisions. And if one reader has got something out of this blog, the risk was worth it, I think.