Some things do make you bigger, and taking risks is one of them.Not taking risks is the way we insist on staying small.
The reason many offer for being stuck and not living life on their terms is that they are not risk takers. But the biggest risk you run in life is settling and playing it safe. Does the risk-free life work? Ask yourself these two questions:
Do you wake up (always, often, never) looking forward to the day and anticipating with excitement all that the day holds in store for you?
Do you go to bed at night with a feeling of profound gratitude for experiencing an incredible and exciting day (always, often, never)?
If you haven’t learned to be a risk taker, you will never be comfortable with your answers to those two questions. To risk may cause temporary anxiety, but not to risk will cause one to lose one’s self.
The comfort zone is the real enemy to actualizing human potential. Our habits create well-worn ruts that become the path we travel. Instead of altering the path, we use our energies to make the path more comfortable and forget that if the path isn’t going in the right direction, we have consigned ourselves to acceptance of the status quo, a life of under achievement and mediocrity.
It’s not necessary to take large foolish risks (e.g., bet your paycheck on a horse race or obtain a second mortgage on your house to buy highly speculative stock). I’m not talking about behavior which requires confronting danger to prove that you are fearless or macho. I’m talking about behavior that creates new feelings.
Change and new experiences initially cause unsettling feelings. We have a bias towards the status quo because that’s what we know and are comfortable with. If we don’t overcome the inertia of comfortable routines, we begin to experience a sameness and every day begins to look and feel like the day before. We have to force ourselves to take risks, do new things and break these patterns that confine and prevent us from leading a more enjoyable, exciting and fulfilling life.
You can ask yourself a series of questions to help you identify the action that needs to be taken and to better understand and assess the degree of risk involved:
What is one risk you are currently considering?
Why is it important for you to take the risk?
If you took the risk and failed, what is the worst possible outcome?
If this approach fails, what are your other options?
How could you deal with the outcome, if it is unsatisfactory?
Start with small risks, experiences that take you just on the other side of your comfort zone. Risk taking is an acquired skill and as you begin to take small risks, you will gain confidence and will trust yourself to undertake larger risks. Fear distorts our perspective and we have trouble evaluating how risky something might be. Taking small risks provides you experiences that allow you to be more objective as to what is at stake and you learn that many ventures aren’t as risky as you imagine. To practice risk taking diminishes fear. You can become a better risk taker by committing to taking a small risk daily for a month. Every day, take a small step over that demarcation line into that scary unknown territory that lurks just outside your comfort zone. Every time you venture out of your comfort zone, your comfort zone is permanently expanded and can never shrink back to its original size.
I always tell myself that if a contemplated action makes me feel uncomfortable, it is probably something I need to do (make those phone calls, introduce myself to that stranger, tell a friend that what he or she is doing irritates the hell out of me, say no to that person who is intimidating or whose feelings will be hurt).
If you are a shy person, you may need to commit to starting a conversation with a stranger every day for a month. Next time you are waiting in line to buy a ticket for a movie, turn around and talk to the person behind you, regardless of age, sex or attractiveness. Make small talk with the person waiting at the bus stop or sitting next to you on the bus. If they don’t respond, that’s OK; they might also be shy. The next time you see that person, just smile and say, “Hi” or “How is it going?”
If you are not assertive and have compulsive people-pleasing tendencies and you find yourself constantly saying “Oh, that’s OK,” when really it isn’t or “It really doesn’t matter,” when really it does, begin being more assertive in small ways. Start out with tiny steps. Next time you are having breakfast and the eggs are runny, or the hamburger at lunch is undercooked, ask the waitress to take it back and prepare it properly.
If you lack confidence, next time you go to a seminar, sit in the front rather than in the back. If you have ever left a seminar wishing you had participated more or asked a certain question, commit to asking three questions at the next seminar you attend.
When overcoming fear by developing better risk-taking skills, start small and go at your own pace. You want to learn how to push through your natural resistance to change. You don’t want the risk to be so big or overwhelming that it creates immediate paralysis and shame.
As you develop your risk-taking skills, you will experience less anxiety during periods of sudden change. It will be easier for you to “go with the flow” and to accept the ebbs and flow of life.