Do you enjoy the thrill of taking risks? Or, are you more likely to avoid them whenever you can get away with it?
Think of those successful people you admire. When we read the stories of their achievements, it’s easy to be jealous of how lucky they’ve been. But, when you look at the qualities they’ve shown on the way to the top, you find that what sets them apart isn’t good fortune – it’s their willingness to take risks.
For you and me as well, living our lives to the full means taking some risks to get what we want.
This can be scary because taking any risk involves introducing a degree of change into our lives… and that’s tough, especially when we feel safe with the way things are now. So, how do we make ourselves more ready to take risks and reap the rewards?
I’m a cautious person at heart. It took me a while to appreciate how many potential opportunities I was missing out on before I altered the way I thought about risks. Deep down, we all know that change is a basic requirement for our positive development, although that doesn’t make it any easier for us to take the risks we need to get there.
It’s good to be wary of taking risks because we need to be confident that the possible benefits outweigh the negative consequences of taking action. We should be careful, however, not to be so paralyzed by our analysis that we never take the risk at all.
More often than not, dealing with the consequences of your actions is easier than coping with the regret of not doing something you really wanted to do in the first place.
Why We Build Our Comfort Zones
Children are crazy little risk takers! You too were once an unrestrained risk taker who said and did things you shouldn’t have, but didn’t know it at the time. When you were younger, the idea of risk never entered your mind. You just went right ahead and did it anyway- and to heck with the consequences.
Then, as you started to grow up, other folk told you what you should and shouldn’t do and made you aware of what bad things might happen if you tried it out. Slowly but surely, you stopped taking so many risks. With the help of others, you began to build your comfort zone where you like to stay till this day.
As adults, we become reluctant to take risks because we want to protect our security and what we feel comfortable with. This sense of safety is usually just an illusion, as it’s very difficult to completely control the impact of negative events in our lives.
You might turn down the chance to leave your current employer and go to work with another company for a higher salary because you’re worried about the increased level of responsibility you’ll have to take on. So, you stick with the safe option of what you know and remain in the job you’re familiar with. Then, your company has to lay off staff due to the recession – and you end up stressing about the future anyway.
When I’ve been tempted to stay within my comfort zone, I make a determined effort to try out new things. These don’t have to be risky activities though: I just aim to do things that don’t follow my usual routine. If I’m thinking of taking a risk, I prefer to start with smaller ones at first, then I can build up my confidence with larger risks once I know I’m on the right track.
Re-Define Your Idea of Risk
If you tend to be more cautious in your approach, there are a number of different ways you can think about risks:
1. Risks don’t have to be big
It can be pretty frightening to tackle massive risks early on. For example, leaving a job to set up your own business might just be a step too far right now. Maybe you’ll do it sometime in the future, but take smaller steps initially that allow you to test the waters. You can try anything that helps to increase faith in your own abilities. A little success goes a long way!
Every time you take a risk – no matter how insignificant it seems – you push the boundaries of your comfort zone that little bit further. When you go beyond what is ‘safe’ in one area of your life, this risk taking attitude will spill over into other areas. For example, if you step outside your safety limits in your working life, you’ll find yourself much more willing to do the same with your personal life, your relationships, etc.
2. Risks aren’t all or nothing
The key is to strike a balance between jumping in head first and taking no action at all. Doing some research beforehand is essential to give you peace of mind that the risk is actually worth going for. If you still aren’t sure whether it’s the right thing to do, calmly ask yourself what you stand to gain or lose if you do it and fail compared to what will happen if you don’t do anything at all. Can you afford to take the consequences, be they good or bad?
Think about your life right now, and whether or not you’re satisfied with how it’s going. If you’re not, do something a little risky you wouldn’t normally try that isn’t too extreme. Do it again if it works and, if it doesn’t, reassure yourself that at least you gave it a go.
3. Risks are about embracing failure
Being open to risks is all about feeling comfortable with the potential for failure. One thing’s for sure… you’ll succeed at some things and fail at others. Failure is best seen as an opportunity to learn what’s needed to succeed.
If it all goes belly up, work out what went wrong and take on board the learning points from it. Don’t let your disappointment or embarrassment put you off doing something similar in the future. Next time, just tackle it differently.
By not taking risks, you run the very real risk that you never experience the success you dream of. You end up making do with the average life you’re not really happy with, when a much more fulfilling one is achievable. No matter what the situation is, if you don’t try, you have no chance of succeeding. So, why not get ready to give the risk a go?
What risks are you thinking of taking in your life just now? Do you have any tips on how to tackle a risk successfully?