To Risk or Not To Risk: That is the Question

As published in the Huffington Post: 12/2/14

Every so often a situation arises that feels like it might shake the very foundation of your being or at least considerably discombobulate your comfort zone. When this happens, your inclination is to bury the negative feelings under the rug and keep those mind/body/spirit rumblings locked in a box deep in the unconscious zone. Who wants to be challenged by the unknown? Recognizing your own vulnerability has a way of complicating life.

It happened to me two years ago when my comfort zone was thrown off balance with the nagging feeling that it was time to leave Los Angles and move to Austin. Unconsciously, I knew it was the correct move, yet consciously I realized I would be taking a huge leap of faith. Leaving LA after 30 years was psychologically and emotionally risky. I’m a California girl from birth and I identify politically and culturally with all that symbolizes its lifestyle. LA and I have major history.

My conundrum about leaving LA was persistent. Doubts about living in this sprawling city in my 70s posed real concerns. I needed a friendlier city energy and an easier lifestyle. I was restless and feeling confined by daily traffic issues and parking challenges. I missed being close to my family, especially my grandchildren. I was flying monthly from LA to Las Vegas then to Austin. I endured years of 405 freeway closures, road work on major streets, spending more time driving the two miles to UCLA than I was teaching my yoga and meditation classes. I began to make choices not to go tango dancing because the drive was too long to Hollywood or the Valley. Car culture was clawing at my soul even though I learned to meditate in my Jetta while stuck on a freeway. Was this really the life I waned to live?


The other day I saw The Theory of Everything — the movie about the life and work of Stephen Hawking. I was emotionally moved by his extraordinary feat of living life in a body that had shut down while possessing a mind that functioned at the highest level of intelligence. I began to muse on the real meaning of being brave.

Most people find it difficult to be be brave and take a risk. It’s easier to read about bravery and risk taking in history books: Lincoln’s freeing the slaves, European explorers discovering new worlds, scientists revealing new theories about our universe, martyrs and heroes dying for a higher truth. Yet, when the possibility of risk enters your own consciousness, it’s not history anymore. It becomes up close and personal.

I’m simply an ordinary mortal faced with the question: to risk or not to risk in a mirco circumstance. And even though I’m not one of history’s brave souls, all humans have one condition in common: a heart that speaks to us and takes us on the true path of our journey. The yogi’s mantra live your truth is ever present in my soul.

In September, I was about to leave my position as a yoga and meditation teacher at UCLA without having made that clear decision to move to Austin. Riding in the elevator one day in the Engineering and Math Building, I encountered one of my students, a staff member who works in the building. After a few moments of silence, she suddenly asked:

“How did you know that you had to leave teaching and move to another city?” Then she added: “I think that is really amazing that you came to that conclusion. All your students are impressed and supportive.”

Faced with the reality of somebody else pondering the potential of taking a risk, I stumbled on an answer.

“I believe it’s about the idea of inertia and the lack of personal and environmental energy. My heart says I need different experiences to keep my life interesting and more productive and creative. I can’t say I don’t have doubts about my move, but I know that moving and experiencing change will bring positive growth and transform. Maybe I’ll even live a longer life. ”

“Wow!” she laughed. “That’s awesome. I hope I can make that kind of decision when I need to. I have dreams of living in Portland after retirement and moving closer to my family.”

In one of the speeches I give as a keynote speaker, I challenge my audience to take some risks, plenty of leaps of faith and be willing to make glorious mistakes. It always occurs to me that I’m actually challenging myself.

I know that playing it safe offers little contrasts in life. The joys are in the surprises, in the details and delights of every day life, in thumbing your nose at the status quo, driving your grandchildren to school in the chill, crisp air of an Austin morning, dancing the two step at the Broken Spoke down the street from my new apartment in the hippest part of Austin.

To risk or not to risk is not the question anymore. I’ve looked at life from all sides now and I realize that 71 is a great age to make a change and experience “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and to take arms against inertia” (to paraphrase Shakespeare). The odds are better than you think that you’ll come across some amazing possibilities and opportunities because there is no such thing as failure. There is only personal truth and professional integrity and they are always there for the taking anywhere you chose to live.

Besides, Austin was just ranked one of the best cities for successful aging.

Joan Moran is a keynote speaker, commanding the stage with her delightful humor, raw energy, and wealth of life experiences. She is an expert on wellness and is passionate about addressing the problems of mental inertia. A yoga instructor, Moran is the author is 60, Sex, & Tango, Confessions of a Beatnik Boomer. Visit her at

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