“To succeed, we must become comfortable with being uncomfortable on daily basis.”Anthony Robbins
How often do you feel you’d been a little braver, trusted in yourself more and been less cautious in the chances you took in achieving your goals? When we think back, we often wish we could have been more persistent and willing enough to take some of the risks in achieving some of our goals. It is hard not to get caught up in the challenges and negative situations of the world and one must be willing to do all it takes to be their best version. In other words, one has to be a risk-taker.
Most often, when we come across a situation that isn’t going well, rather than to do something to change it, we tell ourselves how things are not that bad, may be we should wait for some more time, so the situation will get better by itself and we remain stuck with the status quo where there is no scope for improvement. Risk-taking is important to challenge the status quo and if you ever want to improve or grow, you will have to start taking positive and calculated risks. .
Some people are risk aversive while some take unnecessary risks that not only puts them in trouble but also others. So, it is important to assess your risk to decide when you should make that extra effort and when it is not required or necessary. If productivity, growth and improvement are your priority, and want the reward of success, you have to take on the challenges involved. Being happy and content is not about avoiding risks, but about how we navigate through them
Why are we risk averse?
Risk is the probability of something going wrong as it often gets you into your discomfort zone where you have to deal with things that you haven’t mastered yet. We are innately risk averse because of our inherent need to be safe, and thus quickly give into our comfort zones or comfort of familiarity or certainty. We also avoid risk-taking because of the following:
- Instant gratification. When we are consumed with our desire for immediate satisfaction or look for short-term gains, we rarely focus on taking bold decisions or taking risks that benefit us in the long-term.
- Status quo bias. When we delude ourselves with the hope that our circumstances will somehow get better overtime, we come up with excuses for why sticking with the status quo is a feasible option. Status quo, while not particularly fulfilling may seem like an easier option. This leads to mediocrity and settle with how things are rather than make a change or take a chance.
- Limited perspectives. Our limited perspectives and wrong perceptions lead to certain interpretations that restrict us from risk-taking..
- Overthinking of consequences. We over-estimate the probability of something going wrong and focus more on what we might lose than what might go right or gain. Sometimes we exaggerate the consequences of what might happen and imagine dire worst-case scenario that makes us risk aversive.
- Fear. When you take risk, you open yourself upto different possible outcomes some of which may be rejection, failure, embarrassment, criticism or fear of making mistakes. Our vulnerability to such outcomes holds us back from risk-taking.
- Self-doubt. Too often, we let our self doubt take over. and underestimate our ability to handle the consequences of risk. This results in avoiding new opportunities or taking on new challenges because we don’t trust sufficiently in our ability to rise up to the challenges.
- Comfort zone. Our habits, beliefs and perspectives keep us in our comfort zones which makes risk-taking difficult.
- Unfamiliarity of some unknown problems you cannot successfully deal with creates uncertainty in your life which creates resistance within your psyche to take risk.
- Habitual behavioural patterns. Our deeply ingrained habits often have power over our choices, decisions and actions. Such habits and behaviours get you caught up in instant gratification traps. They force you to run away from any risks that are necessary for personal growth and improvement.
- Procrastination. Procrastination will tell you that it’s just not right time and why you must wait or that you are not ready which may not be true at times. Most of the times we are resourceful enough and oftentimes some action is better than inaction.
- Denial. Denying that problems exist or showing no willingness to take responsibility for problems will prevent you from taking risks.
We often fail to judge the cost of not taking a risk and avoid assuming a bigger role or pursuing a higher goal/perspective. But only those who can go far can be courageous enough to open themselves upto new possibilities of growth and progress in their work or personal life. Only by taking risk that you can overcome certain obstacles and challenges that are standing between you and your goals.
Risk-taking Vs Productivity
“The most rewarding things you do in life are often the ones that look like they cannot be done.”Arnold Palmer
By not taking risks, you might sometimes miss taking action steps that can otherwise put you on a path of greater personal happiness or professional success. In other words, by choosing not to make a change or take a chance in any area of life, you can incur loss in ways you can’t possibly foresee from where you are right now. Taking risks makes us unstuck by making a change or by being proactive in adapting to the changes around us.
Taking risks doesn’t mean succeeding all the time. As with any risk, there is always something at stake, might be your business, money, time, or reputation which are also the very same things you might stand to gain. Even though risk-taking is never going to be free of failure, here are some benefits.
- Risk-taking opens you to new possibilities and opportunities.
- Helps you overcome obstacles and your perceived limitations.
- Leads to innovation and gives you a competitive advantage so you can accustom to constantly evolving demands.
- With no-excuse approach, you improve your problem-solving skills.
- New approaches or putting new ideas into practice often involves risk, but also improve your creativity.
- Risky decisions offer valuable lessons, regardless of whether you succeed or fail.
- Risks build your self-confidence and in overcoming your fear.
- By taking risks you avoid “what if” scenarios and regrets like what if idid this? What if i pursued that goal?
How to embrace positive risk-taking
We all have boundaries, comfort zones and many misconstrued visions of what we deserve or are capable of accomplishing. To go through risk-taking, you have to adopt new beliefs and habits, overcome fears, and potentially shift to a more courageous mindset to achieve some form of growth and development. Taking risks is great-but taking risks backed up with a right assessment is what will lead to positive risk-taking. Here are some perspectives for positive risk-taking.
Overcome your Status Quo bias
Many times we ignore things that involves risk in the hope that our circumstances will somehow get better without realising that things that aren’t working out well for us now only tend to get worse over time, not better. This is because of our status quo bias where we prefer staying with the way things are no matter how flawed they may be. Shift your perspective to challenge what’s become ‘the norm’ taking on a bolder approach. Your risky next step is not as difficult as it seems. If you want to improve, you must embrace risk as new normal. Understand the impact of doing nothing is rarely nothing. Be open to new ideas, consider all the variables to implement the idea and explore all ways to make a change.
Ask yourself, What is the risk involved in taking a different course of action? What can I do differently to improve the situation or present circumstances? What actions can lead to positive change? What risky decisions or actions am i avoiding to overcome status quo? What is the risk involved if i were to keep things as they are?
Read more: How to challenge Status Quo
Know the cost of your inaction
We fail more from inaction than from taking risk. When you are restricting yourself from taking risk, you restrict your potential feeling dissatisfied and stuck. Focusing on the long-term benefits instead of short-term obstacles is what will provide you the motivation to take action. If the reason for your inaction is your lack of desire for change, ask yourself, Why must i make these changes to my life right now? Why are they important? What would my life be if i make these changes?
If overthinking the consequences is the reason for your inaction, ask yourself, What would i do if i were more courageous? How will this inaction pan out if i do nothing? Where is my fear of failure causing me to over-estimate the size of risk? Where am i under-estimating myself and holding me back from taking risks that would serve me? Committing yourself to a decisive action will improve the chances of achieving your future goals.
Understand your risk tolerance
While often said risks need to be taken for one to achieve great things, it’s unwise to take risks without knowing or understanding your risk tolerance. This is what differentiates calculated risks form unnecessary ones. Don’t take risks that cause you more problems than they are worth. Make sensible choices that will help you maximise your outcomes and take advantage of opportunities that present themselves.
Guessing is not the best thing when it comes to taking risk. Do your research and to understand how you will be able to keep up with the consequences. Any past learning experience that you might be able to bring forward to help you in assessing by asking yourself, Did i take this risk before? How did this pan out? What mistakes were made? What can i learn from this? What would this lead to? How prepare am i for this?Take lessons from the past that are most relevant that can potentially be applied to this situation.
Evaluate the pros and cons
To evaluate pros and cons of a risky decision, start with what is its best and worst outcome. If even the worst possible outcome will not cause damage to your current position, then you are in a can’t lose scenario. And if the best possible outcome leads to significant benefits, the risky decision is the right one. When assessing your risk, it’s important to thing long-term. Some risky decisions may not give you immediate results, but can lead to positive outcomes in the long run. Assess your available vs required resources for possible negative and positive outcomes that you are likely to achieve.
Ask yourself, How will i handle any negative consequences or outcomes of my actions? What resources i require if this leads to fruition? How will this experience help for my future results if it doesn’t pan out well?What am i uncertain about? What’s the worst that could happen? Are the rewards worth the risk i am about to take? What potential problems could this risk lead to and how will this affect others?
Know when not to take a risk
All of us run a little low on self-esteem every once in a while especially when we have a setback at work or in your personal life and are struggling to find a boost. Knowing when not to take a risk is as important as knowing went to take one. Clouded judgment or false sense of confidence leads to wrong risk assessment. Take time off if its stress, anger or grief that’s weighing your mind.
When you are taking decisions where others are involved, and are being pressured into risky action or decision, remember that the risk is yours to take and check whether the person pressuring you has any ulterior motives. There will always be people who will never believe in you or in the choices you make. So make your own decision by assessing its pros and cons.
Know your purpose
It is important that you view the act of risk-taking as part of your goal-seeking process or in the context of your purpose instead of seeing it as an obstacle with no way out. Being with your purpose is what lets you understand your outcomes and the consequences of these outcomes in your life. In certain instances it’s easy to sit back and allow other people to do risk-taking for you. however, if things do not pan out as expected, you make excuses for outcomes by blaming others. Playing it safe behind other people’s decisions and actions will not serve you purpose.
Sometimes the long-term rewards of taking a risk often far outweigh the long-term regret. Don’t get caught up with holding onto things you might potentially lose. Instead focus on what could be gained and work towards attaining those outcomes. Ask yourself, What stand in my way? How will i overcome this obstacle?What risk-taking decisions help me with my purpose? What will i potentially gain long-term by taking this risk? What would i lose?When you focus on your purpose, you can better come up with potential obstacles or can look at other areas of uncertainty.
Overcome your negativity bias
Every action or decision, including the decision to do noting carries some element of risk. But because of the negativity bias we tend to exaggerate the riskiness of certain decisions and underestimate the opportunity of others. our need for certainty, approval or need to avoid feeling guilty and need to rationalise and make excuses increases our negativity bias. Such perceptions lead to assumptions, which lead to specific kind of interpretations you make about the situation or circumstance you are in.
Risk is an unavoidable constant, so focus on taking right kind of risks that offer the right kind of opportunity irrespective of your need to play safe. Assess by asking yourself, What if everything goes well? What if taking this risk takes me to my desired outcome? Which risk would pay off more in the longterm? How realistic is my interpretation of the outcome of this risk? What assumptions could i be making in assessing the risk factor? Take small and measured risk-taking behaviours you can overcome your negativity bias.
Practice productive discomfort
The comfort zone is a behavioural space where your activities and behaviours fit a routine and a pattern that involves less risk and stress. Because it provides familiarity, security and to some extent some level of certainty, we become complacent. Whereas risks take you outside of the comfort zone which is why your willingness to take risks depends on the extent to which you are secure to take risks and what is the comfort zone you have set for yourself.
The key is to be aware of whether your comfort zone is is preventing you from taking risks?
Being open to challenges and risks regardless of the outcome will stretch your comfort zone. Make changes either small or large in the way you do things on a daily basis to get used to productive discomfort. Your comfort zone can be in your daily routines, underlying beliefs or habitual patterns and behaviours. Ask yourself, What kind of habitual patterns are preventing me from taking risks? What underlying beliefs are keeping me in my comfort zone? What unhelpful thoughts am i indulging in to prevent myself from taking this risk? Which comfort zone is not serving my purpose?
Space for self-reflection
Which areas of your life you are not improving by avoiding risks?
Do you prefer inaction/indecision over risky action/decision?
Did you ever let go of an opportunity because of not willing to risk it?
How often do you fail to judge your own capacity for risk-taking?
Would you choose status quo over taking risk when things aren’t going well?
Which comfort zone is preventing you from taking risks?
How often do you take calculated risks?
Do you view risky scenarios as part of your learning process or as roadblocks?
Risks are an inherent part of everyday life and whether big or small ,they are inevitable in our learning process. If you ever want to achieve the life you’ve dreamed of, you will have to start taking chances that come your way even if they seem to be risky. Risk-taking is easier said than done and can be frustrating at times because of the extreme levels of uncertainty. Get comfortable with taking calculated risks.
When the outcomes of taking these risks lead to positive outcomes, they can be used as stepping stone for more success and improvement. Don’t focus on only what could go wrong, instead plan ahead and stay focused so as to make risk as an opportunity to learn. Use the above tips to harness the power of positive risk-taking. Be ready to take full responsibility for your decisions and your actions and don’t let the fear of failure hold you back.