Having courage to break out of your comfort zone can feel scary, but depending on how you approach a situation, you can bring more joy into your life than you thought possible. Risk taking can uncover vulnerability, imperfection, and embarrassment. However, the rewards of a calculated risk may lead to becoming and feeling like a successful person – however you define that.
Practicing with small risks each day can help you to build a template for taking more and bigger risks as you go. And, when you take small risks often, you may feel more confidence when it is time to take a big risk. You may start to understand and experience how taking risks can be rewarding in your life.
If you try and fail repetitively, it can be discouraging. It may even feel like you are a failure. However, you are not a failure because a risk you took failed. Adapting a growth mindset (one in which we learn from failure and become stronger and grow more as a person) shifts the focus from shame and embarrassment to “what can I learn from this” so that you can continue forward. It’s difficult to isolate the disappointment of one event if you don’t identify as a risk taker. However, when you shift your perspective, you may see benefits with risk taking.
Here are 5 truths when it comes to taking a risk:
1. A Risk Takes Preparation
Spontaneity can be exhilarating but a big risk (and even small ones) often takes planning and organization. If you are moving, getting married, changing jobs, or taking a chance with other life events; it can be helpful to weigh pros and cons. It can feel overwhelming and you may feel the urge to avoid all planning in attempt to not think about it or telling yourself “it will be fine”.
While some of your best moments may be on a whim, if you are risk aversive, it’s okay to settle your nerves with forethought and preparation. Write it out and talk it out so that you can comfort yourself when you feel fear about making a change or starting something new. Take what you already know about yourself to acknowledge what feels scary.
Even if you are an adult, you may need to redirect and help yourself through a challenging situation to learn how success feels to you. Create structure to eliminate variables with your plan, calm your fear, and create confidence.
There will be things you can’t control in getting what you believe to be your desired outcome. That’s okay. You are still making progress toward becoming a calculated risk taker. There may even be a positive outcome that you haven’t considered yet.
If you are feeling paralyzed by your overwhelm or just don’t know where to start (most common for everyone) talk about it with a trusted friend or professional, like a therapist. Spiraling thoughts can be harmful to you, and talking with trusted people in your life about these thoughts can create confidence about a calculated risk that brings up uncertainty.
Seeking help from a mental health professional for taking risks can help you learn to begin to trust yourself and may ease uncertainty and your perception of failure.
Mental health professionals like therapists, psychologists and counselors have training in helping people manage emotions and distress that arise so that they are able to settle and think more clearly about their goals (risk) and create a pathway to taking steps toward achieving their goal (risk).
2. Checking Your Motivation Helps Your Potential Outcome
If you are taking a risk for anyone other than yourself, you may grow resentment and regret. Any time it feels like you aren’t making your own decision, it’s probably not worth the risk. This doesn’t mean that you avoid compromise when taking risks in relationships; it means that you need to check in with yourself and figure out how to come to a decision that you can accept the outcome of – which often means compromise.
If you are motivated by pleasing another person when you take a risk, you may feel regret if the outcome is not aligned with what you want or value. If you feel inspired to choose a path less traveled because you believed in something other than yourself, you may feel resentment.
Of course, you will be inspired by people, places, and things in your lifetime. And when you are making choices and taking risks for yourself, leading yourself to the decision is important so that you can feel at ease with the outcome. Creativity can come from risk taking, and allowing yourself to feel the success of your own decision can help with your inner peace.
3. Frequent Small Risks Help You to Feel the Success of Bigger Risks
Practice makes progress.
When you allow yourself to make a mistake in safe situations, you can feel more comfortable in risky situations. By practicing healthy risk taking behavior on a smaller scale, the larger leaps aren’t as scary because you know what it feels like already. This means you can create smart risks in your life.
For example, you can choose a different brand of your favorite item to experience something new on a small scale. You may be stuck in a pattern and small shifts can help you to loosen up and experience personal growth. Your next step may be to take a social risk and get to know someone that you haven’t connected with previously. This doesn’t mean engaging in unhealthy risky behavior.
You get to listen to yourself. If a tiny voice keeps speaking up on your behalf, you may experience a positive outcome. Not every decision will go well, but it’s how you come back from it that counts.
A new idea can turn into the right decision at any time.
You can become an optimistic risk taker. Things may work out in your favor if you try.
You will feel failure, but you will also feel reward. You don’t have to identify as a risk taker to be a successful person with taking risks in your life. When you start thinking in extremes you can get stuck in unhelpful thinking patterns like all or nothing, or catastrophizing. One step at a time can help you to start the process and work through the process.
4. Predictability Can Cost You Throughout Your Life
It’s wonderful to build structures and predictability in your life that help you feel safe. When you take care of your basic needs, you are performing a heroic act for yourself. It’s not easy to make things work predictably and feel freedom at the same time. The comfort of just good enough can keep you feeling safe. It can also maintain your status quo.
Maybe, you are in a relationship that feels okay, but you still feel a void. Perhaps, you are at a job that pays your bills but doesn’t offer much more.
You don’t have to ditch all of your comfort to feel excitement but looking closely at what you want and what is currently happening in your life can be helpful. It may be time to learn a new skill, endeavor to become a successful entrepreneur, or allow yourself to open up to new things.
You deserve to feel intimacy, safety, and joy. With risk taking, sometimes the good thing can lead to the best thing. You don’t have to engage in risky behavior to take a chance. You get to take the right risk for you. When you let go of just good enough, you may make worthwhile discoveries about yourself.
5. Risk Isn’t Easy But It Can Lead to Opportunity
If risk were easy, it wouldn’t be this hard. Part of the reason it’s difficult is because there are variables, unpredictability, and change. These are hard concepts to master, especially if you feel comfortable.
You don’t have to create excitement all of the time but taking a closer look at how you are living life can lead to outcomes you may not have known were possible for you. The biggest risk doesn’t always mean the greatest reward, but there is opportunity.
There is also possibility and fear with taking risks. Even though you are not sure what will happen, you can find fulfilling opportunities when you try and even when you fail.
Taking a huge risk doesn’t have to be your next step but opening up yourself to opportunity can be helpful.
Consistent risk taking can help you live a richer, fuller life. Risk taking is not the same as addiction to excitement. If you are consistently self-sabotaging, taking physical risks, putting yourself in harm’s way, or apathetic toward outcomes; this may be an indicator that it’s time to take a closer look at your behaviors.
Healthy risk taking behavior can feel empowering, and harmful risk taking can be detrimental. A mental health professional can help you discern whether the consequence is worth the risk for you.
When you feel motivated by possibility with a desire and willingness to make a change, taking a risk may be the next step for you. No matter what, there is support available, like therapy, to help you make decisions in your life. You aren’t alone, and there is hope.
Written by: Randi Thackeray, MA
Clinically Reviewed and Edited by: Julie Reichenberger, MA, LPC, ACS, ACC
Denver Metro Counseling is a group of clinicians who provide therapeutic support in Denver, Colorado for teens, adults, parents, and families. We provide supportive therapy online and in-person for teens and adults helping them learn to manage life obstacles and create a path toward a rich, meaningful life.