It seems there’s a lot of advice in pop culture to throw all caution to the wind if you want to be creative, successful or possibly go down the annals of history as some kind of revolutionary. Caution is not so cool. “Run from what’s comfortable. Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious. I have tried prudent planning long enough. From now on I’ll be mad.” This quote from Rumi, a 13th Century Persian poet, has become particularly common. So is there a place for caution with all the advice to take risks and flee from one’s comfort zone?
Caution is care taken to avoid danger or mistakes, carefulness, avoidance of rashness and attention to safety. In our fast paced world where time is of the essence, caution is many often viewed as timidity, stubbornness, and stagnancy or clinging to old ways. Nonetheless, caution helps us to understand how best to proceed or not proceed. By slowing down and questioning the most clearly efficient way, caution actually attracts innovation and experimentation. James Hillman, an American psychologist, in an article on the virtues of caution, aptly says, “The necessity caused by caution actually becomes the mother of invention.”
Caution also keeps us away from hazards, both seen and unforeseen. It is imperative for us to exercise caution in different areas of our lives – in the relationships we choose, how we talk, our lifestyles, how we conduct business, and how we choose our beliefs, among many other aspects. In spite of this, it is also accurate that at times too much caution can immobilise us and keep us from making decisions. So even with the ever present need to stop, look and listen, we should not live our lives cocooned inside a bubble of safety, afraid to experience what life has to offer.
In each action we must look beyond the action at our past, present, and future state, and at others whom it affects, and see the relations of all those things. And then we shall be very cautious.
Blaise Pascal (1623 –1662), French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Christian philosopher
Don’t ever take a fence down until you know why it was put up.
Robert Frost (1874–1963), American poet
An English traveller relates how he lived upon intimate terms with a tiger; he had reared it and used to play with it, but always kept a loaded pistol on the table.
Stendhal (1783 – 1842), 19th-century French writer
Don’t do anything that you wouldn’t feel comfortable reading about in the newspaper the next day.
Joel Osteen, American preacher, televangelist, and author
Don’t think there are no crocodiles because the water is calm.
Just as a cautious businessman avoids investing all his capital in one concern, so wisdom would probably admonish us also not to anticipate all our happiness from one quarter alone.
Sigmund Freud (1856 –1939), Austrian neurologist and the founding father of psychoanalysis
Caution is not cowardly. Carelessness is not courage.
If I advocate cautious optimism it is not because I do not have faith in the future but because I do not want to encourage blind faith.
Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese opposition politician
In exercising caution I avoid would be potential disasters that can have detrimental effects on me. It also shows consideration on my part to myself and those around me. Kiarii Kimani, 28, DJ and photographer