Risk-Taking: The Courage to Try

By | June 12, 2017

Have you ever held back on something because it was too risky? I think we all have at one time or another. The word “risk” usually indicates that we have something to lose, and many of us shy away from that. We don’t want to lose.

Then there are those people who seem to revel in the thrill of risking it all. Skydiving, mountain climbing, bungee jumping – they fear nothing. I’ve always regarded people like that with a kind of silent awe.

How did they get to be so brave? Not that I have any desire to do those things, I don’t. But I have wondered what makes them so courageous in taking risks, while others sit back and tremble, afraid to take a chance on the smallest of things.

I’ve discovered that it’s a matter of perception. The risk-takers are looking at what they stand to gain, rather than what they stand to lose. They live for that adrenaline rush of excitement. They know they could possibly get hurt or even killed, but a boring, unexciting life seems like more of a risk to them.

Years ago, my therapist gave me a tool that has helped me thousands of times since.

I was agonizing over whether to change jobs or not, and she asked, “What’s the worst thing that could happen if you did, and would you be willing to live with the consequences”?

Wow! How simple, yet how profound. Here I was feeling like this was a life or death decision, when really all I had to do was consider the consequences. That simple concept helped me to see that life is simply a series of choices.

Sometimes we make good choices (everything works out well), and sometimes we make “bad” choices (it doesn’t work out the way we planned). But when things don’t work out the way we planned, all we have to do is make another choice.

I realized that even if I took a chance on this new job and ended up not liking it, I could search for another job again. It wasn’t the end of the world. Nothing is ever final. Sometimes we build our indecision into a huge chasm of fear until it seems like making the wrong move will equal disaster.

Thankfully, that is rarely the case.

Sometimes, even when we think we’ve made a “bad” choice, it ends up being the best thing that could have happened, because it opens the door to other opportunities that we wouldn’t have considered otherwise.

The only true risks are the ones where we fail to consider the outcome beforehand. Leaping blindly into the unknown isn’t usually the most intelligent thing to do. But if we look logically at what we stand to lose and what we stand to gain, and make an educated decision based on that, we truly can’t lose.

So, what have you been wanting to take a chance on? I know there is something burning in your heart right now. Maybe you’ve been holding back because you are looking at what you stand to lose. Ask yourself this question – what do you stand to gain?

What are the possible consequences of taking a chance on your dream? Would you be willing to accept them if they should happen? Make a list to help you clarify the actual risks. Make two columns on the page and title them, What do I stand to lose? and What do I stand to gain?

Write down every possible outcome you can imagine. Are the risks really that big? If so, maybe you can revise your dream slightly so the risks are not quite so massive. Can you can break it down into smaller steps so you are taking several small risks rather than one large one?

Now consider the consequences of not taking a chance on yourself and your dream. What do you stand to lose then? Are you willing to live with that? For most of us, the answer would have to be no.

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