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How to Approach Taking Risks in Your Life and Work

How to approach taking risks in your life and work

When you want to do something in your life or work that feels like a bit of a risk, it can feel daunting and scary.

Those feelings can become so consuming that they can stop you from taking the action that would move you forward through the risk, to the result you want.

So it is useful to have an approach to taking risks that will help reduce those feelings so that they don’t hold you back or stop you from shooting for the results, change or goals that you most want to achieve.

You need an approach that will set you up to succeed.

To help you with that, here are some suggestions on how to approach taking risks in your life and work:

1. Ask yourself, “is taking this risk moving me toward the vision for my life and work?”

If it is, then focus on the big picture when you feel worried, concerned or scared. It will help motivate you into action and help combat the uncomfortable feelings that taking a risk can bring.

If you ask yourself this question and realise you don’t have a vision for your life and work, create one. How can you decide what action to take every day, let alone which risks to take, if you don’t have a vision or clearly defined goals you are working towards?

2. Be willing to feel uncomfortable and uncertain.

If you want every risk you take to feel like a walk in the park, or to know exactly what will happen along the way, or have a guarantee what the outcome will be before your start, then I have some very bad news for you. When you take a risk the outcome isn’t guaranteed.

Your ability to navigate feelings of discomfort and uncertainty will have an impact on the action you take, and therefore your outcome. As you approach taking a risk accept that uncertainty and feeling uncomfortable come with the territory.

3. Shift your focus from the risk to getting clear on the outcome you want to create.

Once you have decided on doing something that feels like a risk, then shift your focus to your ideal outcome. Create an action plan that will support you in achieving that. Work your plan. It will not only boost your results, but it will also boost your confidence as you take action and move forward.

4. Ask yourself, “what do I need to do to set myself up to succeed?”

Taking a risk and crossing your fingers that it will all turn out OK won’t work. Identify what things would set you up to succeed and proactively put those things in place.

5. Ask yourself, “what is the worst thing that can happen?”

If you don’t know the answer to this question you can’t assess if it is a risk worth taking or not. Only take calculated risks. Anything else is just gambling. Take some time to work out the worst case scenario.

Life isn’t about taking risks. It is about knowing which risks to take.

6. Ask yourself, “what would I do if the worst happens?”

ALWAYS have a contingency plan. This is your equivalent of a safety crash mat. Don’t be without it. Taking risks without one is just gambling.

7. Ask yourself “what would make taking this risk feel more safe?”

Creating feelings of safety as you move forward will reduce fear that gets in the way of taking action. Plus, it will make the process feel more comfortable. Take some time to identify things that would make the risk feel safer and put those things in place.

8. Measure and review progress regularly.

This will allow you to keep yourself on the right track. It will also help you spot potential problems before they happen and take evasive action. Plus, it will support you in stopping small issues morph into big ones.

Having taken a reasonable number of calculated risks over the years, including leaving a 14 year corporate career to start my own business in 2001, moving countries twice (from England to Ireland in 2006, then from Ireland to Canada in 2013), plus numerous other changes to my personal and professional life over the years, I have developed the following philosophy:

I would rather give something I go, even if it doesn’t work out, than spend the rest of my life wondering what might have been.

The approaches to taking risks listed above have been an important safety net in living that philosophy.

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  • These are great points. I think of students just graduating college and trying to launch themselves and adults being made redundant looking for a new career tract or new career becoming immobilized by fear of taking a risk.

  • Yes, people can be in a position of contemplating taking a risk at different stages of life for many different reasons.

  • 1010 Park Place

    Good advice, Ali. I’m an adrenaline junkie, so I’ve always lived on the edge. It comes down to risk/reward. You have to have a serious conversation with yourself and be willing to answer truthfully. Brenda

  • Hi Brenda, well said. Being truthful with ourselves, combined with self awareness really helps.