05 February 2015

{on leaving yourself an out}

photo via influence network member content

Whenever I find myself in bumper-to-bumper traffic in Atlanta, I hear my Drivers’ Ed instructor’s voice saying: always leave enough space to get out of difficult situations when driving. Always give yourself an out. 

Yesterday as I was sitting on Piedmont Road, too close to the car in front of me to change lanes and wishing I’d left just a little more space, I started thinking about how sometimes, we leave ourselves a way out in real life. We don’t go all in,because it’s easier to rationalize failing when we know we didn’t try our best. 

In high school, I ran for class president and I remember telling my mom the morning of the race: I honestly don’t even want it. I’m just running because I said I would. And she told me she thought that I did want it, but maybe it felt scary to admit how badly I wanted it, in case I didn’t win. 

photo via influence network member content

She was right.

And I find myself doing it still. I refuse to admit how badly I want a certain job. Or how excited I am about a project at work. I am afraid to admit the hopes I have for my future marriage and family. There’s a looming fear of failing that keeps me quiet.


I think we often do it because, unfortunately life isn’t perfect and sometimes things don’t come to fruition. Bad breakups keep us from sharing excitement about new relationships. Jobs we don’t get make us feel ashamed that we ever told anyone we’d made it to the next interview.

Or - even scarier - is the time you told someone you wanted to run a marathon and they replied, “you?”. Or when you admitted you wanted to be a chef or doctor or dancer and they laughed. When your dreams received a reaction of couldn’t, shouldn’t or wouldn’t. 

When we are vulnerable and share, we put ourselves at risk for being exposed and receiving feedback – both negative and positive. And to mitigate the risk, we leave ourselves outs along the way.

I didn’t really want it anyway. 
I barely tried.
I don't even like them.

But when we do this, we end up missing out on part of the experience. We take away from the fullness and beauty that comes from going all in. With great risk comes great reward. When you really want it, say it out loud. Let people in. Allow them to give feedback, affirm you and help you grow. You'll be amazed at how much more you can accomplish when you're not working in a silo, but instead in a community. 


  1. You are so right and I'm totally guilty of this... even in school I used to say that I thought I did bad on a test, just in case, so when I would often ace it I wouldn't have to feel bad, it could be a happy surprise and not a disappointment. Fear just gets in the way of going all in sometimes but my word for this year is "fearless" so I'm working on changing that!

  2. Wow, I am continually astounded by how closely aligned we are. I currently am wrestling with the idea of fully committing to a new and arduous career path, and I notice that I frequently rationalize myself out of wanting it since it seems so difficult -- even though I have extensive evidence to justify that I really, really want it. At age 26, facing the post-baccalaureate pre-medical path is daunting, and being at the midpoint of the path feels like being stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic to which the prior wasted years are the cars behind me and the remaining years of school are the cars in front. It's scary to be stuck in traffic, but the traffic eventually will clear and reveal the desired destination.


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