I’ve never been someone who was overly concerned about what other people seemed to place a great deal of emphasis on. I’m talking about taking risks, and how it’s been a lifelong pursuit of increasing my risk tolerance level over time.
There are varying degrees of risk levels, and yet, when most people either think about taking a risk, or are discussing it with someone, generally their first inclination is to consider all the downsides to the risk. Or, perhaps all the ways to mitigate the risk, with the temptation of so many constraints, that they decide to avoid taking the risk. Does this sound familiar?
As humans and for most people, we are oriented towards keeping ourselves safe. Making decisions that will offer an acceptable outcome, and one we can live with, but may not be incredibly inspired by. Even though we may have dreams and aspirations of wanting to challenge our own thinking, something inside your brain is preventing you, or others from taking on a different level of risk.
When you are in the process of thinking through a situation where risk is involved, consider some of the immediate feelings which rush through your body and mind. Perhaps an accelerated heart rate, a different breathing pattern, maybe some initial sweating as your metabolism gets ramped up, and perhaps your mind begins to rush through numerous scenarios of what if, or what the best and almost implausible possible outcome will be? The top prize or results for taking the risk.
It can be incredibly exciting to brainstorm or think through all of the critical details that would enable you to experience the ideal outcomes from taking a risk, but the majority of people will hit the “pause” button before they execute on this discussion. Some won’t, and they may even take the next step of organizing plans to pursue the plan which involves some degree of risk. This group of people will be a far smaller amount, and those that actually follow through and who are rewarded by the risk they took is an even more select and smaller amount of people.
Let’s consider a time when you had an opportunity to take a risk. One that would by most standards be considered a higher level of risk than you would ordinarily pursue. What happened in this scenario? Did you follow through and purse taking the risk, and did it positively pay off doing this? Perhaps not, and did you take the time to be reflective of what you learned from pursing the risk, and failing to achieve your desired outcome? Sometimes there is far more we can learn from the experience of attempting and failing, versus hitting a home run at the risk game the first time you are up at bat.
For me personally, I’ve taken plenty of risks in my life, many of which didn’t play out the way I wanted them to, but the experience I gained from them didn’t deter me from taking other risks. In fact, it did just the opposite, and made me want to pursue taking other risks with the prospect of succeeding at them. For example, I never intended to start a company, write multiple books, or professionally get paid to speak. However, I pushed myself to do all of these things, and from an approach perspective, I did them all slightly differently.
I often get asked what made me pursue, and how did I find the energy, courage or discipline required to set out upon my accomplishments? Honestly, I didn’t consider any of these factors, but there is a common thread to how I was able to achieve them. It may sound simple, but it was that I had the tenacity to believe that I could accomplish them. The second factor was that I wasn’t measuring my risk or success factors against anyone else. Sure, for some this is an innate way of fueling your pursuit of a risk, it just didn’t apply to my method, or appeal to me either.
Having a belief in my own abilities and not allowing others to define what I could, couldn’t, should or shouldn’t do was incredibly freeing. Yes, there were people who attempted to dissuade me from my risk pursuits, but I knew I needed to remain singularly focused on defining both how my risks could be tolerated, and what I would perceive as a “win” from taking on the risks.
If you think that you are playing it too safe, and want to pursue taking on more risks that could pay off in your favor, below are some suggestions for how to go about this pursuit.
- What’s on your “list” of experiences or accomplishments? Is your list a safe list and defined as being non-risky?
- Consider taking your “list” to a different level One that potentially you are slightly uncomfortable thinking about pursuing. Now think about what it could be like if you take the risk(s) and accomplish what’s on your list. Perhaps even just a few of the items.
- Ask yourself why you are playing it safe? Now write down your reasons.
- From your reasons for playing it safe list, have a column next to these reasons with methods you could apply to decrease or mitigate the risk(s) entirely.
- Are you content with staying in your proverbial “safe lane” and accepting what you have already accomplished as being good enough, or are you honestly thinking you have simply given up your pursuit of accomplishments because you don’t think you can achieve them?
- Do you know what it will take to provide you with the motivation to pursue accomplishing something that will require you to take a risk beyond your typical comfort level? Now factor in what is holding you back from your risk pursuits. Yes, there will be plenty of valid reasons, but is it possible it’s a timing challenge versus being afraid to take the risk?
- Who do you know that has taken on risks and you have seen them pay off? I guarantee you they took many other risks before their pay-offs, and you might not know this.
- Ask them about the risks they took that didn’t pay-off, and what they learned from them to have this propel them towards future risks they took and were rewarded on.
I’m going to suggest that many of us are playing it too safe. In our live, career or pursuit of whatever it is we might be dreaming of accomplishing. From my own experience, I can tell you that taking the risks I have taken in my life have all provided me with the foundation I needed to pursue taking on much bigger ones, and I can’t imagine not continuing to learn from them, and leverage them as a pursue even larger risks going forward. I hope if you are playing it too safe, that this article has given you either motivation to take on a risk, or at least persuaded you to consider thinking about doing so.
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