A friend and blogger ApplePieMom brought an idea to my attention yesterday in her post Living Dangerously.

The idea that living dangerously enhances life is a conundrum that rolls around in my head frequently.

I understand AppliePieMom’s point that simply taking a few economic risks isn’t the same fighting in a war zone. No doubt. The difference is one of degree. Are you risking your life, your job, your money, your marriage, your freedom, your health, or your reputation? We clearly put different values on each of these things.

But that doesn’t get at the fundamental question…

Is Living Dangerously and Risk Taking Critical to Your Happiness and Success?

It is to me, but it is nuanced and complex.

Almost everything worth doing is risky.

I was driving down the freeway and my son yelled, “Dad the speed limit is 70 and you’re going 78. The policeman is going to take you to jail.”

I thought about it a minute and I said this to my son…

“First, no one is going to take me to jail. If I get caught I’ll have to pay fine. Second do you notice how everyone else is going even faster? If I drive slower we will be in more danger than if I keep up with the flow of traffic.

One of the most important things to learn about life isn’t to obey all the rules. It’s to learn the rules, know when you’re breaking them, and what the consequences are if you get caught.”

Risk taking and danger doesn’t always involve breaking the rules, but more often than not it does.

The need for risk and challenge can manifest itself  in harmless ways…

When a golfer first plays a clean round of golf, they can find it isn’t what they thought it’d be. They thought it’d be exhilarating but instead it was boring. Why? It is more interesting to get yourself into a mess and get yourself out than it is to execute near perfection.

manifest itself in incredibly destructive ways…

Claude Steiner writes about this in The Games Alcoholics Play. He states alcoholics and addicts don’t find “normal” life interesting. They are caught in an destructive obsessive form of risk taking, consistently digging themselves into a hole and recovering. This is why they are more likely to relapse when life is going well than when they are having problems. They crave not only alcohol but the risk that goes with it.

Some people climb mountains, others jump from airplanes, and some put their life savings down on a startup. These activities make them feel alive.

What do you think? Is living dangerously critical to your hapiness and success?

For me it is. Too much safety and comfort bore me and lead to apathy. But there are a couple of caveats…

  • The risk must be calculated and intelligent, not a blind gamble or reckless endangerment.
  • The likely result of my risk taking should be constructive and positive.

ApplePieMom shares her experience as the mother of a 26 year old soldier on the ground in Afghanistan.