The office has been quieter this past month now that the students from the PSU Graduate School of Social Work have left and the summer is upon us.  More folks are taking breaks from therapy for the summer and fewer people are coming into the office in person.  We have rearranged our office and created a staff space to gather and eat or work together while making the reception area a tad more comfortable for our guests.  When we think of summer, we think of openness, sleepy times, a great book, or that summer concert you got tickets for way back when. So much of how we operate here at Pulse is rooted in our collective curiosity and wonder at what might be possible, and how we can make our wildest dreams come true. Sometimes those dreams are big and other times they are not; they often require calculated risk. 

Calculated risk combines the analytical and the aspirational, the logical with the hopeful. It involves making informed decisions by attending to potential outcomes, and being realistic while holding on to a childlike enthusiasm for the uncharted course. I often think of skydiving as something I would love to do. I see myself going up there with an expert, strapped to their back, or connected in some way, and jumping out of a plane. The risk is jumping, and the calculation is that with a guide there is less chance of an accident. There is risk and there are potential downsides but the personal growth, pride, and joy I imagine feeling after the accomplishment makes the risk seem worthwhile.

I grew up in a big city that was very gritty at the time of my childhood.  New York City was hot and hard.  When I allow myself to look past the past aches and into the beauty of the “summer in the city” there are things that bring life to my ouches that help soothe and even make me smile.  The fire hydrant on a hot summer day being turned on for us all to play and laugh, the birthdays in the street because it was so hot inside, walking and reading a book at the same time (cause it was that good), riding the subway for hours and hours and exploring Manhattan when I was supposed to be at the park five blocks away, or the day I ruined my brand new Hee Haw overalls skateboarding down a giant hill.  These risks made me stronger, and more curious. They taught me to trust myself and ultimately led to the risks I take now in life.  

When we decide to take a calculated risk, we open ourselves up to many opportunities. Simply overcoming fear is a chance to see the world in a new way. As we plan and review the risks we want to take, we can attend to the environment/context, the pros and cons of the activity, and ways to manage if things don’t go well. Traveling seems to be the best example of this because we can’t be sure of all that can happen, yet we know that there is often joy and learning that comes from the experience.

All calculated risks need hope as part of the formula for the outcome we desire. I have an odd relationship with hope. I need it to take those risks and to feel like I am the little engine that could, but hope can also lead to my future tripping and being in freeze. Taking a risk and being hopeful creates a balance that encourages action and motivates me through the long haul. 

Calculated risk is a powerful tool for achieving joy and maintaining hope. By carefully assessing risks and making informed decisions, you can navigate uncertainties and it may lead to meaningful accomplishments. It can guide us to seek that job we thought we might not get, try for the hard play in the game, build a business (that was mine and it’s why we all have Pulse), or leap into love. Ideas and plans can flourish, and the parts that worry about risk can be soothed by planning for the “what ifs”. 

As you head into summer notice what holds you back and what propels you forward. Let yourself learn, embrace failing to learn, and give yourself a pat on the back for trying something risky.

The infamous “Hee Haw Overalls” ruined in the skateboarding incident.