Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Taking a Risk on Life

The greatest reward that has come as a result of my book being published is by far the incredible and inspiring people I have met since it's release.

Solid friendships have formed with passionate conservationists, adventurists, community giving leaders, philanthropists and, just all around great people. Each and every one of them has blown my socks off with their personal stories of determination, selfless giving and all-round awesomeness. One of those people is Theresa Crawford and she has graciously offered to share some of her wisdom on risk taking.

Theresa reached out to me after hearing about my book and being interested in the risk-taking side of it, which, Theresa says, is generally not something women are encouraged to do. Theresa has studied women and risk and is a licensed psychotherapist in Minnesota who helps people live intentional lives.

Theresa's own personal story moved me beyond words. A single mother of three girls, she wasn't going to let anything hold her back from accomplishing her dreams. She worked, studied, earned two masters degrees and is now building her private practice.

She didn't just overcome the obstacles in her life, she crushed them then hurdled over the rubble. She has passed that risk-taking and grit along to her three daughters.

As Theresa's story proves, with determination, faith and a willingness to take risks, we can not only overcome, but also and more importantly, direct our lives to take the course we want. We are the creators of this blip in time we call life.

It is with gratitude and pride that I introduce Theresa Crawford, MA, LAMFT.

Taking a Risk on Life

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about risk, what is it? How does it work? Why is it that research shows that boys and men are more comfortable taking risks than girls and women? One of the things that I think correlates with risk, is curiosity. And the more I thought, hmm, it occurred to me that perhaps, risk is following our curiosity, and letting life unfold, which satisfies our curiosity, as in “Oh, so that’s how this is turning out.” In order to be able to look at life without believing that there is a good outcome, or a bad outcome we have to let go of thinking in terms of duality, or in terms of good or bad, and be ready to embrace however life unfolds.

This being said, as we walk this earth, we get to be co-creators with the universe, and we get to choose the things we have in our lives, rather than just letting life happen, as some folks think they are doing, but still, they are choosing, just passively instead of actively. I first became interested in the research of risk when my oldest daughter became a young mom in her high school years. I realized that all the risks we as parents were warned of, were risks that were of either a sexual or substance abuse nature, not so much was out there on guiding your child towards positive risks, and there was not a course in the schools on risk-benefit analysis, so I thought, how do I guide my brilliant daughter towards risks that engaged her in creating her future?

Fortunately, she had a guidance counselor who also saw the gifts she had to bring to the world and helped her get into a post-secondary program for kids who could meet the academic challenges of college while still in high school. The nearest college, however; was 50 miles away, which posed its own challenges for us. We were two single moms; and we had to buy another car. My daughter worked all summer and paid for half, while I paid for the other half of a used Dodge Daytona. At sixteen, baby car seat strapped in, my daughter drove her son to daycare, and herself to college.

She thrived, she was elected the President of the Art Club on campus, and she learned to stretch herself beyond what folks in that small town thought was possible for a young teen mom. My daughter risked stepping outside of the comfort of a predictable high school life, and I risked anything I could on my daughter and my grandson’s future. I held onto the amazing life I’d always hoped she’d live, not buying into the dire predictions of folks around me on what life held for young moms. I held out for my daughter all the hope I’d carried with me for her life ever since she was born. I believe in this way, we as parents have the special place of holding hope for our children, and it is a privilege to keep this flame burning.

I’ve struggled all my life with fear, all too often passing this way of looking at life onto my daughters, and fortunately, they are resilient and can see that I hold onto love and hope, too, and this helps me stay curious about life and to let go of my fear. I am still curious about risk taking, and I’ve done some research into it, now seeing that as a woman, I was not educated about, nor encouraged to take risks. I was taught to play it safe, and let God, (that Patriarchal dad) take care of me, and when He didn’t, I was supposed to accept that this guy just knew better than me.

Well, now I know better than that, and I know that I can create my future, just as I encouraged my daughter to create her future. She did just that, and went on to earn a Master’s degree and work on an organic farm, and direct a non-profit, and she now teaches in a leadership graduate program. I’m wondering, which is the greater risk, to stay small, or to follow our dreams, interact with the universe and create our futures? Something I hear from clients, is that they never get a sense of satisfaction in their lives, that they never “arrive.” I think we are mistaken in believing the joy comes after the work, that the prize is the arriving, when the joy is in the risk-taking, the embracing the work of life with curiosity, not suspicion. Believing, that we get to co-create whatever our hearts and minds can imagine. Sometimes, the greatest risk we take is in seeing things that others tell us are impossible, believing in ourselves, and in each other, and in love. There is no arriving, there is only now.

Theresa J. Crawford, MA, LAMFT

Theresa is a psychotherapist and a writer. She completed two master of arts degrees, one in marriage and family therapy, and one in human development, with a focus on neuroscience and psychotherapy and mindful leadership.  As a therapist, Theresa loves working with people to understand the underlying messages that are holding them back from their dreams and fulfilling relationships.  Learn more about her therapy practice at

As a writer, Theresa contributes to the Minnesota Association of Marriage and Family Therapy Newsletter, has had two expert posts online, and just this year had a creative non-fiction piece published in The People’s Apocalypse, edited by Ariel Gore and Jenny Forrester.
You can find more of Theresa’s writing at her blog.  


  1. My three favorite lines:"I held out for my daughter all the hope I’d carried with me for her life ever since she was born. I believe in this way, we as parents have the special place of holding hope for our children, and it is a privilege to keep this flame burning." " I’m wondering, which is the greater risk, to stay small, or to follow our dreams, interact with the universe and create our futures?"
    Great story. I have the pleasure of knowing Theresa and think she inspires us all with her courage and willingness to think beyond the expected.
    Yvette Pye

  2. Wow. Your choice of words and vignettes had me reflecting upon my past and present experiences, questions, and hesitations before I was even done with the first paragraph.
    There is so much value in your insight into curiosity and positive risk. I am getting better at recognizing covert pressure to "play it safe" or "watch your back" or "stay under the radar" – I mean, those words are basically catchphrases drummed into our heads. But by far, I am the one putting that kind of pressure on myself and it sure limits growth. You know what I like better and need to be more comfortable with? Having the freedom to fail, to lose, or to fall short – I wish those outcomes were encouraged and celebrated as opportunities for learning and growth. Wouldn’t our perspectives of ourselves be different if we saw our failures as a different kind of success? That mindset could be one of the foundations for positive risk taking.
    Anyway, your drive, your goals, your intentions – they are all perfect examples of positive risk taking, nurtured curiosity and growth, and enjoying the journey. You’re one of my biggest inspirations, Theresa! Thank you. Jane L.

    1. Theresa is one of my biggest inspirations as well Jane!