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Why a Safe Life is a Mediocre Life

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Legendary author Stephen Pressfield said, “Writing isn’t hard. Sitting down to start is hard.” And so it is with most other areas of life. Last week, I compelled you to commit to being a finisher; someone who is dedicated to not settle for 80% but one who closes deals and projects and completes personal goals. But what about those of us who just wish we could get going and take the first step? Maybe you’re eager to finally step out of the boat and walk upon uncharted water, but taking that first step is all too intimidating, so instead of risking failure, you decide to stay safe and settle for mediocrity. Apply this to any area of life:

  • Personal goals
  • Relationship growth
  • Financial freedom
  • Career advancement
  • Parenting skills

Does this sound a lot like your life? Maybe you can relate to this reader’s recent email in which he said, “Chris, I feel uninspired and am lacking courage. After a series of disappointments, I’m really timid about taking another risk. So, I’ve settled to just wait and see what happens.”

Believe it or not, those emails arrive in my inbox more than you’d suspect. And I believe that the culprit lurking behind this common intimidation is one thing: fear.

Fear will stunt your growth.
Fear will shutdown your potential.
Fear will burn your dreams to the ground.
Fear will jade your relationships.

But most of all…

Fear will keep you from taking the most important step: the first step.

Taking the First Step

There’s a lot of risk and mystery in taking the first step. The inherent risk in taking a first step is found in embracing when you’ll fall, not if you’ll fall. And often, the mystery in taking a first step revolves around how long will it take to develop a stride.

Watch the development of a toddler.

Can you imagine if a parent was so gripped by the fear of their child falling and getting bruised in the process of normal development that they insisted upon carrying the youngster wherever they needed to go? Needless to say, instead of developing their own stride and building muscle, the toddler would never be able to support his own weight, develop motor skills, and would ultimately atrophy an otherwise healthy muscular system.

And that’s just what the fear of stepping-out into the unknown does to our development in life.

Just ask a man called Peter.

Broken Nets or Missed Opportunities?

In Luke 5, the gospel writer describes a scene in which Jesus, while teaching a crowd of people, noticed two boats laying at the edge of a lake. Seizing an opportunity to take his preach to the next level, he got into one of the boats and asked Simon Peter to push him a short distance from the shore. Picking up the story in verse four,

When He had finished speaking, He (Jesus) said to Simon [Peter], “Put out into the deep water and lower your nets for a catch [of fish].” Simon replied, “Master, we worked hard all night [to the point of exhaustion] and caught nothing [in our nets], but at Your word I will [do as you say and] lower the nets [again].” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their nets were [at the point of] breaking; so they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats [with fish], so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw this, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” For he and all his companions were completely astounded at the catch of fish which they had taken…

And therein is my point: the fear of embracing the risk and mystery of stepping out into the unknown will hamper your ability to take steps forward into your future. But unlike a lot of people today, at least Peter said, “yes” to the opportunity one more time. Consequently, his uncommon faith added to uncommon obedience yielded an uncommon result.

So the question begs an answer: are you going to live your life safe and stuck in cynicism because of past disappointment? Or will you take the first step even with the risk of failing? Point being, you cannot serve God and reach your life’s potential while putting “safety first.”

Step One: Step Out

Really, the first step in learning how to step out into the unknown is taking full responsibility for your life. If you’re sick and tired of living a life that’s dripping in mediocrity because of the safety of familiarity, here’s a step-by-step process to taking…the first step:

  1. Take responsibility for your life. Don’t allow your emotions to control you. Learn to discipline and contain your emotions. Don’t believe what you feel. Allow your emotions to catch-up to your right beliefs and corresponding actions.
  2. Seize the opportunity. In Luke 5:4, Jesus presented an opportunity to Peter when he instructed, “Put out into the deep water and lower your nets for a catch [of fish].” As I mentioned in my last post, there will always be a logical reason and a good intention to justify mediocrity. But overcoming this temptation requires embracing risk and mystery.
  3. Dump the excuses and take action. Don’t wait until all your ducks are in a row before you start. In the same manner, don’t squander your future successes because of past failures. Get up and get going again. Like many of us, Peter’s response to Jesus’ command began with a logical explanation to justify mediocrity: “Master, we worked hard all night [to the point of exhaustion] and caught nothing [in our nets].” However, he quickly responded, “But at Your word I will [do as you say and] lower the nets [again].”
  4. Expect to need a recharge. At some point, you will run out of motivation. The initial excitement will wear off. So know that going in and then commit before the bell rings.

We were never designed to make choices from a place of fear. And trust me, I get why the temptation to do so is enticing. But I’ve recently come to a place in my own life in which I would much rather fall flat on my face than look back to this day with tears of regret clouding my vision.

Taking the first step is often the most difficult, but it is the most necessary.

Do you believe it?

  • Amanda McBride

    I read this and thought about my (nonexistent) dating life. I know you were referring to projects but I felt like it all applied to dating just the same. It’ll never be the perfect time. I’ll always be able to find an excuse. It’s funny how satan’s lies were disguised this time.

    Thank you for this article.

    • Amanda, this is a great observation, and one that can definitely be applied to ANY area of life. You’re absolutely correct: it will never be the perfect time! Take the first step!

  • Deanna Joven

    Wow. Incredible word, Chris.

  • yourauntie

    “For God has not given us a spirit of fear…” Hi Chris! So glad to see you’re doing well! Remember me by any chance? Christina Carter’s (Travis) mom. Long time ago!