Are you living an expansive life?

I'm reading a book, Fiction Attack, by James Scott Bell, author and writing coach extraordinaire, and he asks that very question: Are you living an expansive life? Are you taking risks and learning or playing it safe? For most people, the answer is to play it safe. And there are good evolutionary reasons to do exactly that. After all, early adopters in the paleolithic era tended to get eaten by saber-toothed tigers if the newest idea didn't work out as planned. All species are driven by a strong survival instinct (with the possible exception of the panda) and taking chances was, well, chancy.

But advancement can't be accomplished by sitting in the crook of the tree, watching the world go by. Or in front of the TV. To learn new things, to grow, a person needs to leave the comfort zone and explore. Explorations don't need to be on foot or to some strange land. The most arduous journeys start inside you, asking a simple question: "What if. . . ?"

What if I asked that girl out?

What if I learned Italian?

What if I climbed that mountain?

Not everybody wants to, or even needs to, live an expansive life but if you want to reach your maximum potential as a contributing human being, playing it safe isn't an option. All history is built by people pushing boundaries. Those who dared to try something new, like powered flight, are revered as 'unique' and 'special'. They are neither - they are simply people who were willing to climb out of the tree.

Do many of these folks perish? Absolutely, sometimes in spectacular fashion.  Watch Birdmen: The Original Dream of Flight if you want an appreciation of how intensely limits can be pushed.

Not every act needs to be death-defying, of course. Some of those 'what if's' exist purely in the realm of the mind, creating new ways to look at things. The American Revolution was a new way to organize a country. Relativity by Einstein was a new way to view the universe. Ideas are perhaps the most profound life-changers.

History is also strewn with those who played it safe but backed the wrong leader, the wrong idea. In the end, there's no such thing as playing it safe. Hoping that the group simply spreads your risk - and your exposure to risk - over a larger entity.

So, back to the question: are you living an expansive life? Do you ever think. . . what if. . . .?