Of course there’s a place for wise caution in the presence of clear and present danger or when your gut is screaming 'be careful' but it can so easily become a way of life and we develop a just-to-be-on-the-safe-side mentality. We gradually lose confidence, limit what we will do and where we’ll go and the walls of our world begin to shrink.
What he said made complete sense. The temptation to hold the rail when going down stairs or not walking on uneven ground in case I fall will limit my independence, strength and physical fitness. And my brain too it seems.
When I stick to flat, safe surfaces, my brain can take a break. My feet know how to put one in front of the other, but when I encounter stony ground or protruding tree roots, my brain is on constant alert, getting a good workout. Now I never walk on footpaths but head for uneven ground because my brain can do with all the exercise it can get.
In fact caution can wriggle its way into every crevice of our existence. Cautious artists don’t make great art and cautious musicians rarely surprise us because risk and boldness are prerequisites for creativity.
It's been the risk takers that have made medical breakthroughs, invented new ways of doing things and changed the world. It’s those wonderful people who won’t believe it can’t be done.
When my daughter was just three, her favourite pink teddy bear was loved just a little too much and his ear disintegrated. When her grandmother and I assured her it couldn’t be fixed she found a needle and cotton and somehow managed to attach the severely chewed ear and pink ted was whole once more. It was that determination to do whatever it took that has shaped so much of her life as an adult.
We sanitise them, train them to avoid risks and in essence teach them to become cautious individuals. It’s a childhood that doesn’t let them develop the skills to face danger safely and wisely when it arises throughout life.
I don’t want to live a life defined by the "What if's", most of which will never happen. If they do, I will become more resilient by navigating my way through the problem and at least I won't die wondering what could have been down that road I didn’t explore.
I’m convinced that the opposite of caution is not recklessness or rashness but boldness and courage. Courage to take the unknown path, to tread the rocky ground and refuse to cling to safety and security or let fear or anxiety rob me of an abundant life or to hastening old age!
“The desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise.” Tacitus