By Anne Simpkinson

Risking Everything: A Definition of Personal Growth?

A very dear friend recently gave me a book entitled Risking Everything, by Roger Housden. It’s a collection of 110 poems centered on the theme of self-exploration and revelation.

The introduction alone is worth the price of the book. It begins, “Have you ever longed for a life in which every last part of you is entirely used up? Have you ever followed that longing?”

Too often we play it safe in life—I know I do. I seek security, safety, a just-interesting-enough life. But I forget that my deepest yearnings may very well be calls from God. Challenges to grow and to take risks to achieve a dream, make a contribution. But change takes work. I know that a simple Lenten sacrifice of not watching TV has been a struggle, let alone all that’s involved in changing one’s life’s direction!

But Mary Oliver says it best in her poem “When Death Comes”:

“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement…
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”

I find myself reading and rereading the introduction, then diving into the poems, soaking up the words like a desiccated soul thirsting for wisdom and inspiration.

There are many times of the year when we resolve to make changes: New Year’s, of course, and September. But spring too is a time to use the energy of the season to burst out of a deep slumber into your very best you, and as Derek Walcott suggests, “Feast on your life.”

Who would you be if you could become your very best self?

Post your responses below and you will be eligible to win a copy of Risking Everything.

Anne Simpkinson is the online managing editor of She co-authored Soul Work: A Field Guide for Spiritual Seekers and has edited two anthologies entitled Sacred Stories: A Celebration of the Power of Stories to Transform and Heal and Nourishing the Soul: Discovering the Sacred in Everyday Life. A spiritual practice, good friends, lakeside cottage and two lovely feline companions continue to transform and enrich her life. 

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Years ago I felt a yearning to spend more time walking alone in the woods and sitting in God's Presence. Not just a moment here or there. But long hours of prayer and contemplation. It took time to make that happen--I had to get a child through college, quit my corporate job and get my husband on board--but 7 years after that yearning began, I packed up husband, kid, dogs, cat and a 300 year-old grandfather's clock and headed for the Mountains of Vermont. It wasn't easy. My kid preferred city life, my husband, an artist, was a little intimidated by all the native Vermonters who could chainsaw with one hand and drive a tractor with the other, and my income was up one month and down the next. It was scary. But it was worth the risks. I discovered the amazing blessings that surround each and every one of us that we just can't see in the fast-paced, demanding life most women must lead. And I discovered that those blessings are the whispers of God, calling us to his Presence each and every moment. I am so incredibly blessed.

Dear vze4725c, my niece sent me a fabulous quote from Goethe: “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.” You're well into your project. Go for it all now! And Good Luck and Blessings!!

I would let go of all that is bitter and forgive others and myself for my past...I would have an amazing energy and light for others and do something everyday that could improve the world around me, or just make one person's day a little better. I would no longer worry about me, me, me all the time and spread love and joy and happiness to others. I would let others know that no matter how dark of an abyss you may feel you are in, it can and will get better(I know from experience) and would share this. I really want to be able to do this, but sometimes it takes work on the inside of me first to project it on the outside :)

Dear rangers-fan, your post is so inspiring! Just know that you CAN do it! It only takes focused attention and commitment. See the Goethe quote I posted. If you really want to do this, JUST BEGIN!! It won't be easy, you're right, but the payoff would be beyond your wildest imaginings.

Dear asimpkinson, thank you so much. The quote was very helpful and I have been making small steps everyday to become the person I want to be and CAN be. Your kind words mean so much.

I think I would be me, only bolder!

This article is very timely. I have been learning and working on a project for over 5 years. It is now finally complete, having found the right website URL, the right project, and with God's help the programming expertise to build an interactive personalization gift service. The only additional thing required is the funding. After so many years of hard work and sacrifice, I feel this article is talking to me, that now is the time to "risk it all" on what I believe God has lead me to do by funding this venture myself.

Thank you for taking the time to write such an inspiring article

marlajayne. Yes, it was Mary Oliver. Love that woman!! Her poetry is magnificent!!

We must be soul sisters! I earnestly strive to enjoy every step of the journey, to LIVE and not merely exist. What I think is that it takes courage to follow your dreams...and the ability to shut out the "noise" of the naysayers and hecklers.

I think Mary Oliver is the person who asked, "What are you going to do with the rest of your wild and precious life?"