“The Greatest Risk is to Risk Nothing at All.” —Leo Buscaglia
What’s the first thought that pops into your mind when you think of the word “risk”?
In an unofficial survey of my closest friends, here’s what they said when I posed the same question to them. Risk equals:
- A threat I need to act upon
- Task/action/situation with a higher than normal chance of failure and/or negative consequences
- My future ex-wife
As you can see from my circle of friends, everyone has their own perspective when it comes to how they view risk; some are witty, some deep thinkers, some hesitant, some fearful, and others are ready for action despite the threat.
Stepping into the Unknown
Whatever comes to mind when you think of the word “risk” is attributed to your belief system; the stories you tell yourself based on your life experience.
Since risk goes hand and hand with change and uncertainty, and we are living in the days of constant change and inevitable uncertainty, I wanted to shed some light on risk and explore how you can step into the unknown and view risk through the lens of critical thinking rather than the lens of fear.
This will help you flourish not only in a post-COVID-19 world but in any life challenge you face.
The Battlefield of Your Thoughts
Stepping into the unknown doesn’t have to be daunting, because the battle is always in your mind; which means it is something you can control.
Once you learn how to identify and reframe the stories you tell yourself about the fear of the unknown, you can step into it with confidence and flourish.
What stories do you believe about risk? That it’s reckless, that it’s bad, that it leads to failure or that only brave people risk?
In order to walk into the unknown where there is a high probability that there will be risk, you must first identify what risk means to you.
Risk is associated with change. However, change is not the problem; opposition to change is the deeper issue.
What most people don’t realize is that without change, there would be no growth. Grasping this single revelation can transform your life.
You must ask yourself who you want to be — someone who never grows as a person, a colleague, a spouse, a parent, an entrepreneur, or a leader?
If you don’t develop a healthy view of risk, you will struggle when facing life’s challenges.
Resistance to Risk
People struggle with risk because of:
- The fear of the unknown
- The uncertainty about the future
- The lack of being in control
Regardless of what your thinking is, if you stay the same, it will cost you. What you are going to miss out on if you stay where you are is:
- Gaining greater courage
- Building a more resilient mindset
- Finding new opportunities
Change is difficult, but what is the flip side of the coin? In other words, what is it costing you to not change?
- Missed opportunities
Once you determine the impact of what the status quo will cost you, it’s time to come up with a plan to break down the wall of resistance you are facing and push through to the other side where there is freedom.
Three Ways to Overcome the Fear of Risk
“You can never reach your full potential without taking risks in life. To achieve great things you have to go out on a limb.” —John Maxwell
- Gain clarity through reasoning, not feelings. Get a crystal-clear definition of all aspects of the risk you are facing, from a critical thinking lens rather than one driven by feelings rooted in fear.
You will never experience the success and freedom you want if you continually operate out of a foundation of fear.
Most of the resistance to risk comes from the unknown and the fear of failure. Therefore, finding clarity on how it will affect your life proves to be very helpful in breaking down this wall.
Get clarity by asking yourself:
- What did you do before that you might not be able to do now?
- How could this decision possibly make a positive impact on your life?
- What new things might open up for you that were previously unavailable?
- If it doesn’t work, what is the worst thing that can happen?
Getting clarity will help you see the bigger picture and give you a clearer direction so you can create a plan to navigate change.
- Stay in control. Don’t react to the change — own it. Most people have a strong need for certainty; to be in control. Losing that sense of independence, or autonomy, is a key player when facing change.
No one wants to lose their independence, and you don’t have to.
The truth is if you choose to own your change, you don’t have to lose anything. You’ve made the decision, which is something you have 100 percent control over.
Look to see:
- What do you have control over?
- How can you experience greater growth because of this change?
- What opportunities might open up to you?
“Risk is the price you pay for opportunity.” —Tom Selleck
Authoring your change empowers and enables you to keep your sense of independence.
- Expand your comfort zone. Have you ever heard the phrase, “Everything you ever wanted is outside of your comfort zone?” I am not a fan of that quote. Why? Because it goes against the way our brains are wired. The primary purpose of the brain is to keep us safe; it’s survival.
That explains why change is so hard and why we don’t want to leave our comfort zone; our brain wants to keep us safe.
Your comfort zone is a safe place where you encounter very little risk. Unfortunately, too many people are so safe in their comfort zone that they don’t think of expanding it. This will cost them personally and professionally.
So how can you use your comfort zone to help you grow rather than what most people use it for: a hiding place?
Think in terms of reframing; expanding versus leaving. Expanding equates to growth whereas leaving in any language implies goodbye, sayonara, adios, ciao, farewell, later.
So how can you expand your comfort zone to better face life’s challenges and experience growth? You expand your comfort zone by building a foundation of strength instead of fear.
Make a list of:
- Your strengths
- Your skills
- Your personality traits, like discipline, perseverance, empathy
Once you build a strong foundation of your strengths, remind yourself of them daily as you start to expand your comfort zone.
You can learn to move forward at a pace that still seems safe to you; even if you take baby steps, it is still forward motion.
It is a process of growth where you can expand the boundaries of your comfort zone and flourish.
When you expand your comfort zone, you still maintain a solid foundation from which to derive energy, but you also grow in areas such as courage, strength and confidence by this expansion process.
Your strength zone is no longer a small protected hiding place; you have turned it into your power zone.
My Perspective of the Word ‘Risk’: Friend or Foe
When I hear “risk,” I think of the word “calculated.” Calculated, in my mind, is synonymous with premeditated, deliberate, intentional. That describes me to a T; I have to weigh all my options and have clarity before I move. Intentionally seeking clarity makes risk my friend.
Now, if you had asked me years ago what risk meant to me, I would have had a completely different answer. At that time, risk was my foe. First, I would have cowered away and then said, “Yikes, no way, too scary; I’m not doing it.”
What changed for me? The answer is life. Life changed me, and, although fear still frequently tries to creep in, it is no longer the foundation from which I make decisions.
I hope this helps you, because if there is anything we should have learned from this pandemic, it’s that life is full of uncertainties, and those who build strong mindsets can more easily overcome life’s challenges.
If you don’t risk anything, you will never really live. You won’t live out your purpose. You won’t realize your dreams. You won’t experience freedom.
Make it a courageous day!
Rita Hudgens, mental strengths coach and professional speaker, is a mom of four and a Warrior Coach who lives in Arizona. Having overcome numerous impossible situations, she specializes in coaching people to build Warrior Mindsets.