Have you ever wanted to do something so much, and were tempted to take a risk, but held back because it meant stepping outside your comfort zone?
In truth, this has probably applied to all of us at some time or another.
But the problem with staying in your comfort zone is that it doesn’t allow you to accomplish all you’re capable of. And it can lead to a lack of satisfaction and fulfillment. Playing it safe may be comfortable in the short-term, but it seldom is in the long-run.
Downside of Avoiding Risk
In our heart of hearts, we often know what we really want to do in life. Maybe it’s to travel to a faraway place, find a more loving partner or set-up our own business. Or perhaps something as simple as asking for help or speaking up when we see something wrong. But often we hesitate to step out and take on these new challenges.
What happens is that our sub-conscious mind, which has been programmed over a lifetime to keep us safe, will do all it can to maintain the status quo, even though we may yearn for change.
Typically, five things happen, as we start to think about making a big change in our lives and the risks that are involved.
Focusing on What Might Go Wrong
First, we tend to focus on what might go wrong and exaggerate the likelihood of possible problems occurring. This tendency is particularly evident if something went wrong in the past and we feel it has set a precedent. Instead of weighing up the pros and cons in a considered way, we focus more and more on what might go wrong. The result is that potential problems grow in our minds and become all absorbing.
Exaggerating the Consequences if Something Does Go Wrong
Secondly, we have the habit of exaggerating the consequences of what might happen if something does go wrong. Rather than thinking about the possible risks in a reasoned way, we focus on the worst case scenario. Things such as losing our job, being shunned by friends and family or having to sell our home. We completely overlook the fact that the worst case scenario is only one of many possible outcomes. And in all probability it’s unlikely to occur.
Under-Estimating Innate Skills and Qualities
Thirdly, we under-estimate our ability to handle the situation. And we also overlook the fact that we each have skills and qualities which can help us mitigate any difficulties that might arise. It’s as though our courage and confidence abandon us, whereas they’re just waiting in the wings, ready to help us out and move our lives forward.
Cost of Taking No Action At All
Next, we overlook the cost of doing nothing. We may convince ourselves that things will sort themselves out over time or that they’ll get better. But unresolved issues in our lives tend to fester if they’re not dealt with and get worse not better.
Sidelining Our Dreams
Finally, in this spiral of negative thinking, we sideline our dreams and the chance of growing as individuals. We don’t accomplish all that we’re truly capable of. And we suppress the opportunity of finding peace of mind.
There’s nothing worse than looking back and saying if only. Unfulfilled potential is very demoralizing and gnaws away inside, so don’t let this happen to you.
How Risk Takers are Different
Risk taking can be scary, but many successful people in all sorts of walks of life say they achieved their dreams, because they were prepared to look fear in the face and take risks when no-one else was willing to do so.
So, let’s take a look at how they approach the challenges in their lives.
Motivated to Accomplish Something Important
Risk takers are not people who act impulsively or plough in without giving any thought to the consequences; in fact the complete opposite. But they are people who are strongly motivated to accomplish something important to them. And this motivation is essential, because it helps sustain them if the going gets tough.
Potential Costs AND Benefits
Secondly, risk takers weigh up the potential costs and benefits of their new challenge. But they also check out the costs and benefits of taking no action at all. They don’t get sucked into a downward spiral of focusing all their attention on what might go wrong if they step out in pursuit of something new; they keep things in perspective.
Anticipating What Might Go Wrong
Risk takers are also quite good at anticipating what might go wrong, but they don’t get drawn into catastrophizing. Instead they come up with different ideas about how to handle difficult situations that might crop up. So, they’re better prepared if something doesn’t work out as they would like.
Next, they keep faith with themselves. They don’t go round saying what if something goes wrong? or I don’t know how to do it. Instead, they trust they’ll find a way forward even if things don’t work out in the way they anticipate.
Part of this is also getting acclimatized to taking risks and being more prepared to do things outside their comfort zone. The more risks they take, the more things have a habit of working out satisfactorily. And even if they don’t work out, they don’t take it personally; they learn from the experience and move on.
Possibilities vs. Problems
Finally, risk takers tend to focus on possibilities rather than problems. And as with most things in life, the more we focus on something, the more likely it will materialize in our lives. Risk takers are therefore more likely to accomplish their dreams and overcome the hurdles along the way. And their ultimate prize is a sense of satisfaction, fulfillment and peace of mind.
Switch to Risk Acceptance
Many situations in life involve taking a risk. On a daily basis, we’re often faced with a series of small risks, some of which we take in our stride and others require a bit of courage. In terms of our future, our dreams often rest on stepping out into the unknown and contemplating things we haven’t done before.
But one thing is clear, risk is part of life. We can either choose to ignore it and do our best to avoid it, or we can accept it and seize the opportunities it offers.
We’ve already seen that by avoiding risk, we sideline our dreams and the chance of achieving real satisfaction and fulfillment in life. So the only option open to us if we want to accomplish all we’re capable of is to accept risk taking as part of life.
This doesn’t mean throwing yourself into every risky situation without any thought of the likely outcome. But it does mean not just playing it safe when you’re faced with uncertainty.
Don’t let the fear of risk, whether its fear of the unknown or doubt about your capabilities, stop you in your tracks.
Five Questions to Ask Yourself
You may decide not to take a particular risk, but before you do, weigh up the pros and the cons by answering the following five questions:
- If you were feeling really brave, what is it that you’d like to do?
- What are the potential risks and rewards of stepping out bravely?
- Can anything be done to lessen the potential risks and enhance the potential rewards?
- What are the costs and benefits of not taking any action at all?
- How do the potential risks and rewards of doing something new compare with the costs and benefits of taking no action at all?
As you answer these questions, don’t be tempted to over-estimate the risk of stepping out bravely, or under-estimate the cost of taking no action at all. And equally important, don’t under-estimate your ability to cope with any challenges you might encounter along the way.
In a Nutshell
You don’t achieve your dreams and all that you’re capable of by playing it safe.
And you don’t find satisfaction, fulfillment and peace of mind by staying in your comfort zone.
So, be brave, be decisive and just do what – in your heart of hearts – you really want to do!