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Playing it Safe

Do you play it safe with your creativity, be it expressed through dancing, music, writing, painting, acting . . . ? Do you find yourself working with the same old, comfortable people, places, and situations? Where do you hold back, or fear to tread at all? The truth is, we all play it safe: in our art, our work, and our lives. We've been taught to do so from birth. First our parents protected us from danger, then schools, society, and various government agencies took over. Now it's become a deeply ingrained, limiting habit.

Perhaps you play it safe with the kind of things you create, sticking to one topic, outlet or style. Maybe you avoid uncomfortable issues in your work, situations that get just a little too real, or a character that's a little too like you. Or you have this fantastic idea that you're waiting to do because, "You're just not good enough yet." Maybe you limit yourself to local venues, or don't charge enough for your work. Or perhaps, you couldn't bring yourself to call that agent, that potential backer, that gallery, and pitch your work.

Wherever you play it safe in your creativity is also where you play it safe in life. Can't make your characters get confrontational? Well then, ask yourself, how well do you handle confrontation? Follow all the rules in your painting? Where else do you blindly toe the line? Can't send that demo tape into the radio station? Where else do you lack confidence?

There's nothing intrinsically wrong in playing it safe. We all do it in order to survive–or so we've been taught–but as we move through life, we outgrow our safety nets, just as we've outgrown our playpens and car seats. Some of us consistently choose the known over the unknown, the small but sure return over the risky investment. Others play it safe by avoiding the chance of rejection, exposure, or disappointment. Sometimes we play it safe in one area of our lives so we can waltz on the precipice's edge in another. But playing it safe is really taking the biggest risk of all: the risk that we will never learn or grow in that particular area. And those are the areas where life's most precious and important lessons await.

So what would happen if you stopped playing it safe, just for a little while? How would your creativity blossom and grow? In our art, at least, we can explore with safety. We can stretch ourselves beyond what we thought we could do. These are just paint smears on canvas, or electrons on a screen, or a series of moves set to music. We can paint over it or delete the file or change the steps if we get too scared.

I challenge you to use your art, your creativity, whatever your outlet, to deepen your knowledge of yourself. This next month, start noticing where you play it safe in your art. Notice where you back off, instead of pushing forward, where you tiptoe timidly instead of striding forth boldly. Notice what you approach with caution, rather than with curiosity and adventure.

Then throw that caution to the winds, and take that risk! See how much richer your art becomes.

And – your life.

NOTE: You are welcome to use this article online in electronic newsletters and e-zines as long as it remains complete and unaltered (including the "about the author" info). If use of this article is desired in printBusiness Management Articles, you must first contact Lynn Cutts at

Copyright 2005 Lynn Cutts

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Chocolate-loving Life Coach Lynn Cutts’ mission is to change the world for the better, one person at a time. At, she shares free tips, articles, games and newsletters to help you realize your dreams. Lynn offers one-on-one coaching, group coaching and self-guided programs to help you create your own boundless life. Lynn is certified by the Coaches Training Institute, and is a member of the International Coaches Federation.

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