Maybe you shouldn’t jump off a cliff

Have you ever thought about taking a risk in your life, only to have a well-meaning friend urge you to do it, because

“In life, you should jump off the cliff. You’ll find either you’ll be caught, or you’ll grow wings and fly.”

If you want to take a risk, this saying says, you should take it. Life will support you. Everything will be fine.

It’s a new-agey greeting-card saying that’s been around for a long time.

And I think it’s just bunk.

Sure, when you jump off that cliff you might be caught. And you might grow wings and fly.

But this bit of advice leaves out another, much more likely option:

You might hit the ground.

And you might hit it pretty hard.

Ever known anyone who’s hit the ground?

 

Have you ever known anyone who’s taken that advice and hit the ground hard? I have.

  • I know a guy who, based on that “jump off a cliff” advice, got married to a woman he had known just a few weeks. They hit the ground, hard, not much later.
  • I know several people who have quit their jobs or attempted abrupt career changes based on it. Wham, and wham.
  • And I know someone who risked everything in a new business venture based on the idea that you should “jump off a cliff.” And she lost everything.

Closing your eyes and running headlong off a cliff isn’t having faith, no matter how much people tell you that it is. It’s being dumb.

Ow, ow, ow.

The reason it doesn’t work

Let me be clear: I’m not saying you shouldn’t take risks. Sometimes you should. Sometimes you should take big risks. Risks are an important part of life.

But there’s a reason “jumping off a cliff” doesn’t work, and you need to know it:

It doesn’t work because when you close your eyes and jump off a cliff, you’re not moving from where you actually are.

You can only move from where you actually are

When people do the “leap-off-a-cliff” thing, they usually are doing it in response to how much they don’t want to be where they actually are at that moment.

It’s as if they are saying…

  • “I don’t like my job so I’m going to impulsively quit.”
  • “I don’t like being alone so I’ll impulsively get married.”
  • “I don’t like feeling like a failure, so I’ll impulsively invest everything in this business opportunity.”

They are saying “no” to where they actually are, and trying to be somewhere else.

But you can only move from where you actually are. You can say you are somewhere else, but you’re still where you are.

When people take these emotional cliff-jumps, they are not facing what’s going on for them emotionally.

They’re not being where they really are.

It’s hard to get transformation if you won’t admit where you actually are

When you close your eyes and jump off a cliff, you’re being unwilling to admit what you are actually experiencing emotionally. And when you are not willing to admit what you are actually experiencing emotionally, it’s very hard to get transformation.

If you are not willing to admit what you are actually experiencing emotionally, you’re saying, “I’m not going to deal with the upsets or fears I might have about this. I’m just going to act, and hope something good happens.”

That’s “magical thinking.”

And it’s a recipe for hitting the ground hard.

The five steps of acknowledging where you really are

There are 5 steps to admitting where you actually are emotionally. If you haven’t taken these steps, then you probably shouldn’t take a risk that feels like “jumping off a cliff.”

To acknowledge where you really are emotionally, you have to:

  1. Acknowledge what’s actually going on, and that you want a change,
  2. Acknowledge what seems to be stopping you from making that change,
  3. Acknowledge how you lose heart in that circumstance, how you start believing you will be stuck with an unpleasant fate,
  4. Acknowledge that the person you become when you believe you’re stuck with that fate is not a person who is able to create the change you want, and
  5. Admit you need to care for your heart.

Here’s how a person thinking of quitting her job in the name of “jumping off a cliff” might do these steps:

1) Acknowledge what’s actually going on, and that you want a change: “I don’t like my job. It feels like it’s not going anywhere. I want a change for the better.”

2) Acknowledge what seems to be stopping you from making that change: “Every time I look, I don’t see any options that seem better.”

3) Acknowledge how you lose heart in that circumstance, how you start believing you will be stuck with an unpleasant fate: “When I feel like I don’t have any other options,  I start to believe that there’s no way forward, and that I’m gonna be stuck doing this job I hate forever.”

4) Acknowledge that the person you become when you believe you’re stuck with that fate is not a person who is able to create the change you want: “Wow, when I become the person who’s already decided that I’m stuck forever, I turn into someone who is pretty useless at pursuing other alternatives.”

5) Admit you need to care for your heart. “I need to care for my hurting heart that’s bought this idea that I’m stuck forever, so I can restore myself and move forward with strength.”

The cliff-jumper isn’t saying any of those things. Here’s what the cliff-jumper is saying:

“I can’t bear to face how I’ve lost heart. It’s too upsetting, so I’m saying no to it. I’m going to refuse to look at how I’ve bought the idea that I’m stuck forever. I’m going to run headlong off a cliff, hoping something good will happen.”

It’s similar for the guy who gets married impulsively, in the name of “jumping off the cliff.”

If he followed the steps, it might go like this:

1) Acknowledge what’s actually going on, and that you want a change: “I don’t like being alone. I want a partner in life.”

2) Acknowledge what seems to be stopping you from making that change: “But nothing I do to find a partner works. I go on dates, but get nothing but duds.”

3) Acknowledge how you lose heart in that circumstance, how you start believing you will be stuck with an unpleasant fate: “When nothing I do to find a partner works, I really do lose heart. And the way I lose heart is that I start to believe that I’m fated to be alone and unappreciated.”

4) Acknowledge that the person you become when you believe you’re stuck with that fate is not  a person who is able to create the change you want: “Wow, when I become the person who’s already decided that I’m fated to be alone and unappreciated, I turn into someone who destroys any possibility before it even gets started.”

5) Admit you need to care for your heart. “I need to stop what I’m doing and care for my hurting heart that’s bought this idea, so I can restore myself and become someone who a great partner might want to be with.”

Instead, when he “cliff-jumps,” he’s saying:

“I can’t bear to face how I’ve lost heart. It’s too upsetting, so I’m saying no to it. I’m going to refuse to look at how I’ve bought the idea that I’m fated to be alone and unappreciated. I’m going to run headlong off a cliff, hoping something good will happen.”

I know that sometimes big risks are necessary. What I’m saying is this:

If you are taking big risks to avoid facing where you are actually at emotionally, you aren’t having faith. Your closing your eyes and running off a cliff, and you’re setting yourself up to hit the ground hard.

How to do it

If you want to make a change in your life, and are considering taking a big risk, I suggest you follow the formula:

1) Acknowledge what’s actually going on, and that you want a change. Say something like, “Yes, I do want some area of my life to change. I do want to take a leap into something else, and I am willing to take some risk to do it. There is a leap I want to take.”

2) Acknowledge what seems to be stopping you from making that change. Rather than closing your eyes and jumping into that risk, ask yourself, “When I try to pursue that change in my life, what problem do I hit?”

  • Are you applying for jobs but getting turned down?
  • Are you going on dates but always meeting people you don’t like?

What circumstance seems to be stopping you?

3) Acknowledge how you lose heart in that circumstance, how you start believing you will be stuck with an unpleasant fate. Ask yourself, “In the face of that circumstance, how do I lose heart? When I hit those circumstances over and over, what dark fate do I find myself deciding I must be doomed for?”

  • Are you deciding that you are doomed to doing work that you hate?
  • Are you deciding that you are doomed to wither and die alone?

Let yourself start to see how you lose heart.

4) Acknowledge that the person you become when you believe you’re stuck with that fate is not a person who is able to create the change you want. Have some compassion for how hard it is to make a change when you’ve already bought the idea that it will never work.

5) Admit you need to care for your heart. This is the important step. When you care for yourself when you’ve lost heart, you are truly being where you actually are. You are saying “yes” to what’s happening, rather than saying “no” to it. You’re no longer running headlong off a cliff to escape.

When you are able to say, “I do lose heart, and my heart needs help,” and when you open to finding new sources of healing, you’ll be able to find inspiration and transformation you wouldn’t have been open to otherwise.

After you’ve taken care of your heart, you’ll find you’ll be able to take risks in your life in a whole way. Rather than running off a cliff, you’ll be open to new options, able to see new opportunities, and able to take new, strong, imaginative actions.

It’ll be a lot more likely you’ll be caught, or feel like you have wings. And it’ll be a lot less likely you’ll hit the ground hard.

About Dmitri

Comments

  1. David Kelm says:

    Dmitri,
    It is always an inspiriation and joy to read your thoughts.
    David

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