I have asked hundreds of people ["When in your life did you feel most alive?"] and have been struck by the similarity of their answers. In particular I've noticed 3 themes. (1) Nearly everyone describes a scenario in which they pushed themselves out of their comfort zone and took risks. (2) The OUTCOME of taking the risk is rarely the main thrust of the story - it's usually the process of taking them that they remember most fondly. (3) When people finish their story, they've often got a big smile on their face.
Sure, this brings to mind some dramatic adventures I've had while motorcycling or hiking, but at a deeper level it reminds me of important personal and professional risks I've taken over the years. Most notably, several times I've chosen to leave a perfectly good job to pursue something I was more passionate about, and in every case, Sundheim's three-point checklist applies: 1) I pushed past my comfort zone to make the decision--sometimes way past, 2) the act of taking the leap was more important than how smoothly I landed, 3) and although each transition was challenging and stressful at the time, I look back on them all today and can't help but smile.
I don't think of myself as a risk-taker--I'm not a thrill-seeking daredevil, a gambler, or a high-stakes financier. But it's instructive to ask Sundheim's question--When in my life have I felt most alive?--and to realize that when I've quelled my fears and pushed myself to take meaningful risks, the reward has been a renewed sense of passion, a clearer sense of purpose, and a deeper connection with life. Thanks, Doug.