Risk Is In the Eye of the Beholder

Are you a risk taker? If you said no, think again. You may be more of a risk taker than you think.

David works as a sales clerk to support his fledgling acting career. Before that he taught school, following 12 years as a computer programmer. You may perceive David to be a risk taker having left two positions which had good security and pay. But David doesn’t see himself as a risk taker. For David, risk involves physical activities such as mountain climbing.

Most of us are more conscious of the risks we avoid than those we take. That’s why we don’t think we’re risk takers. And because we’re aware of the risks we avoid, we assume that others take bigger risks. But they may be avoiding risks we’re taking. So risk, in this sense, is in the eye of the beholder.

When we describe something as “risky,” we usually mean it’s scary, to us. And because few of us get involved in activities we fear, we don’t view ourselves as risk takers. Yet, when someone else does something that’s scary to us, it’s hard to imagine they’re not afraid. Since we weigh risk in comparison to our fears, we perceive that person to be a risk taker. However, they may not view themselves as risk takers.

What’s risky to you?

- Physical danger — sky diving, skiing, taking drugs, having cosmetic surgery?

- Psychological/Emotional — staying in a dead-end job, getting married or divorced?

- Social — giving a presentation, telling jokes at a company party, traveling solo in a foreign country?

- Intellectual — taking a graduate course, chairing a high-level policy meeting?

- Economic — investing in stocks, changing jobs, buying a home, starting a business?

- Career — involving any combination of the above?

Think about three successful risks you’ve taken in any life component. What did you do to make it turn out well? In which categories did the risks fall? What have you learned about yourself and your risk taking behavior?

Strengthening ability to risk

- Describe the fears blocking you from making a change. Barriers could include fear of loss of a secure income, fear of failure such as starting a new job, and guilt that change might create family hardships. Identify ways to overcome these obstacles.

- Let go of “attachments.” The more attached you are to something, the greater the fear of losing it. Ask yourself, “What do I want to let go of?” “What’s the worst thing that can happen if I let go?” “What people, resources and support would make my goal less risky?”

- Live in the present. Because most fear centers around the future, don’t spend time worrying about what might happen.

- Know your mission, strengths and priorities. It’s easier to risk for something you’re passionate about. What do you really want to do? How does this differ from what others think you should do? Replace the “shoulds” with your own values. As you turn your priorities around, risking will become easier.

- Clarify your goal and a plan to achieve it. Break the goal down into small steps. What’s the first step you could take? When could you take it? Do this for each step.

- Watch “self-talk.” Each time you catch yourself saying something that fuels your fear, say “cancel,” and replace it with a more positive statement. Shift your vocabulary from being a victim to someone with power and strength.

- View setbacks as learning experience as you move toward your goal. Failure can be reduced by planning and persisting.

What risk would you like to take this week? What can you do to prepare for it?

Life is a challenge, meet it; life is an opportunity, take it; life is an adventure, dare it!

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