No Guts, No Glory: It’s Worth the Risk

I’ve  played it safe most of my life. It’s no secret that I don’t like to rock the boat, don’t want to ruffle any feathers, and want everyone to think I’m a ‘nice girl’. I am very uncomfortable with criticism and conflict, probably because I have gone to great lengths to avoid exposing myself to it. Perhaps that comes from being an only child – I’m not sure. I’ve coached a lot of people around this issue, so I know I’m not alone. They say you teach what you most need to learn, so I got the message loud and clear; it was time to face my fear. I’ve discovered that the problem with fearing criticism or conflict is that it prevents us from taking risks, which can stunt our growth and steal our personal power.  So I asked myself, how can I get more comfortable with risk? Well, the same way I got more comfortable with speaking in front of an audience – the more I did it, the more comfortable I got doing it. I realized that in order to grow and fully live my life, I had to stop playing it safe.

I had this idea for an article that was quite a departure from my usual tip-oriented articles. I wrote the article but I was hesitant to have it published, for fear that people would take it the wrong way. I sent it to the editor of Home Digest for his opinion. I’ve been a regular contributor to this magazine for almost a decade, and the editor has become a friend, so I knew I could trust him. He loved it and encouraged me to let him publish it. After much deliberation, I decided I was going to take the risk, even though it might open me up to criticism. In fact, I asked readers to send their comments in and even had a book draw to encourage this.

The article, What Does Your Clutter ‘Hot Spot’ Reveal About You: Insightful Organizing,  recently ran in the Early Spring issue of Home Digest, and I was pleased with the amount of positive feedback I was getting in the form of emails. I even put the article up on the home page of my website.

I was feeling pretty pleased with myself. But just when I thought I was out of the water, I got a call from a woman who didn’t like the article. In fact, she said I came across very ‘judgmental’ to those who couldn’t keep a tidy house. My first inclination was to be defensive, but I quickly realized that I wouldn’t learn much from being reactive. So I just listened. She told me she was offended by the article because, as a minister, she works with a lot of families that are doing their best but can’t seem to keep on top of the clutter and that my article would make them feel like they are not okay because of that. Well, of course my intention was quite the opposite. Rather than make people feel hopeless and powerless, the article aimed to help them uncover the emotional link to their clutter so that they could start clearing the clutter and change their lives for the better. But hey, I asked for the opportunity to become more comfortable with criticism, and the universe provided. When I got off the phone, I didn’t feel devastated. I wasn’t defeated. No one died. I survived the criticism and because of that, I feel confident enough to continue taking risks.  I took the comment for what it was, someone’s opinion.  In fact, I was grateful for the growth opportunity it provided.

I’ve shared this experience in hopes that it will inspire you to find the courage to express yourself in spite of any consequences (real or imagined) or what others might think. Take a chance! It doesn’t have to be a big risk; smaller risks will work well too. Are you willing to be brave and bold, even if it means pissing a few people off along the way? What risk will you take this week?

“It is only by following your deepest instinct that you can lead a rich life, and if you let your fear of consequence prevent you from following your deepest instinct then your life will be safe, expedient, and thin.”
— Katherine Butler Hathaway

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This post has 10 comments

  • scb says:

    Wow. I just read the article on your homepage. Thank you. How very apt — and just at the time when I’m finally getting my decluttering done! I’m printing it out for a friend who just arrived to help a bit.

    Thank you! If I could give you a hug, I would! (And thanks for the insights on criticism, too. I needed that.)

  • Lee Ann says:

    You, plain and simple, rock.

  • donna papacosta says:

    Just read the article. Interesting. Can clutter sometimes signify: I’m a single parent working 11 hours a day and there’s little time to declutter?

  • Denise says:

    My clutter hot spots are my dining room table, where I do all of my paperwork, and my basement and my garage, which are out-of-sight, out-of-mnd collection spots for everything that has been moved out of my everyday living area in an attempt to keep it neat. I’m wondering what this says about me?

    As far as risk taking, I learned to snow ski this year at age 46. I have sat in the lodge while my husband skiied for the past 16 years…My whole life I’ve stayed away from things that I’m not good at. This year my 6 year old son learned to ski, so I thought I should try it. After 3 days on skis, I’m doing okay! I don’t intend to ever tackle any black diamond runs. My goal is just to go out and have fun and get some exercise on some of the easier slopes. I have more respect for myself, and my husband and son are very proud of me. We now have a sport we can enjoy together…and I can accept the humility that comes with having a 6 year old that is much better than me, and occasionally falling down or running into someone because I’m unable to stop! I’ve been able to laugh at myself and keep trying. I can’t wait til my next chance to ski! Thanks for the post on risk-taking.

  • Sherry Hardwick Thomas says:

    Last night, after 10 days negociating for a house, I decided I wanted to resolve the issue and emailed my agent that my offer was good until noon today.

    I am a minister, only child, and dedicated people-pleaser. I was surprised that I had the inner strength to do this. My gut was telling me the stress was a sign to relinguish and move forward into something I have not yetr discovered!

  • Ron Mitchell says:

    Hi Hellen,
    Thanks very much for writing this article about ‘risk’. I identified with it a lot….except for the ‘only child’. I am the 2nd oldest of 14 children (10 guys and 4 gals)! That’s another story! Everybody ‘does’ have an opinion and how I react is up to me. At age 62, I have observed over the years that a common reaction is “Why doesn’t someone think, act, do, ‘drive’, etc. like “I” do”?! Whether it’s a relationship of any kind…serious, friends, work or even driving a car! At work, the ‘boss’ is paying someone to do something a certain way. Thus, it can be ‘delicate’ to suggest something with hopefully an open-minded boss. As far as taking “risks”, there’s an old saying, “Some see things as they are and say ‘why’ and others see things as they could be and say “why NOT?!”
    When I went to work in Antarctica, my sister a year younger than me would say “Why would anyone want to work there?!” When she might have really been saying “I wouldn’t want to work there!” Risks and Fears are closely related! My first trip to Antarctica was like going to another planet! I think I have always been a ‘risk taker’. Dale Carnegie was a great course in public speaking ‘and’ in dealing with others, remembering names, etc.
    I like your show “Neat” when you many times, leave it up to them to make the decisions, especially the children having to decide for themselves what to keep/toss. And when you dig deep into the “why”. And compromise is very important too. Your solutions, like taking pictures of items, is very practical. Indeed, there is a lot of ‘psychology’ to organizing and coaching.
    Thank you very much for going ahead and publishing the article. Another saying (I’ve got many that I try to live by!) is “Honesty is the best policy”.
    And thanks for being very honest….it shows we are all human and ‘on the same boat…down the same river’! Ron

  • […] Getting the “organization” and “productivity” stuff out of the way, so you don’t have a cluttered desk or a busy schedule to hide behind. […]

  • Amy says:

    It makes me feel better to know that I’m not the only one who has difficulty dealing with criticism and conflict.

  • Amy says:

    It makes me feel better to know that I am not the only one that has difficulty dealing with criticism and conflict.

  • […] No Guts, No Glory Confessions of a Professional Organizer […]