Lots of people dream about taking risks in life but are too afraid to go through with it, perhaps because they worry about what others will think about their decisions or because they may be too uncomfortable with the idea of moving outside their own comfort zones. Whatever it is that is holding you back from taking a risk, it's time to overcome it. With some simple planning and analysis, you can decide whether something is really worth the risk. If you decide it is, you can overcome your fear of risks by making smart decisions and building up your self-confidence.
Gathering Your Courage
- Stop underestimating yourself. One of the reasons people struggle with taking risks is because they are not confident that they will be able to handle the stress, responsibility, or pressure that comes along with it. You are capable of so much more than you give yourself credit for, so stop doubting your own abilities!
- If you are considering moving to a new place, remind yourself that you have lots of skills and talents, so you should not be afraid of not being able to find a job or make new friends.
- If you want to ask someone on a date but you're worried she might say no, remind yourself that you are a great person with a lot to offer, and that you will be just fine even if she does say no.
- Consider the risks of settling. You may be so bogged down with worries about the consequences of taking a risk that you forget there are consequences involved with not taking a risk also. If you never take risks, you will always be settling and living with regret. This constitutes a serious risk as well, as you may not be living the fulfilling life you really want.
- For example, if you are thinking about taking a new job that you think you will enjoy much more than your current job, but you are concerned that it is not as secure as your current job, consider that you risk being unhappy and never enjoying your work if you stay where you are.
- Remember that risk is relative. Everyone has a different tolerance for risk and danger. It can be beneficial to push your comfort zone a little to reach for things you want to accomplish, but there's no need to compare your own risk-taking to others'.
- Don't let anyone pressure you into taking risks. You should take them because you want to, not because other people want you to.
- On the other hand, don't let people talk you out of doing something risky just because they would not be comfortable with doing it. What matters is your comfort level, not anyone else's.
- Be realistic about what could go wrong. It's always possible that your risk may not pay of, but it's important to keep the consequences in perspective. People tend to overestimate both the likelihood that something will go wrong and the severity of the consequences that will ensue. Take a minute to reflect on what would actually happen if your risk didn't pay off and how you would handle it.
- For example, if you want to take the risk of making a public announcement about an important issue, you might stop yourself because you think that you will forget what you have to say, that people will laugh at you, and that your entire life will be ruined. Consider that even if you forgot what you wanted to say and people laughed at you, there is a very small probability that this would ruin the rest of your life.
- Let go of what others think. Stop living the life that you think other people expect you to live, and start living the life you really want to live. If you aren't constantly worrying about disappointing others or embarrassing yourself, it will be much easier for you to take risks in life.
- If you are getting a lot of push back from your friends and loved ones about your decisions, try having a talk with them. Say something like, "I really want to do this, and I find it very upsetting that you are so judgmental of it."
- You can try to explain your decisions to others, but don't feel like you have to justify them to anyone except yourself.
- Picture everything going well. Once you've decided that a risk is worth taking, try visualizing the scenario in your head several times with everything going exactly as planned. Don't let negative thoughts about things that could go wrong creep into your head. This positive thinking will help you build the confidence you need to go through with your risk.
- If you find yourself dwelling on possible negative outcomes, try repeating the desired outcome to yourself out loud. It may also help to remind yourself of all of the precautions you will be taking to prevent the negative thing from happening.
Getting the Most Out of Your Risks
- Start small. There's no reason you have to jump right in to a huge risk right away! Starting with smaller risks will help improve your tolerance for risk and give you the confidence you need to take more of them.
- You can start by just saying yes to all opportunities that come your way, instead of trying to make new opportunities for yourself right away. For example, if someone asks you if you'd like to work on a new project at work, accept it. If someone invites you to try a new sport with them, give it a try even if it's not something you'd ordinarily do.
- Another way to start small is to just take a single step towards the risk you want to take. For example, if you want to try scuba diving but are too afraid to try, take a small step in the right direction by snorkeling in a pool.
- Try to tackle your biggest fear. Everyone has one colossal fear that holds them back in life, whether it's fear of public speaking or fear of heights. Whatever your fear is, go out of your way to face it head-on.
- People have lots of fears, and often the best way to get over them is to expose yourself to them. For example, if you are afraid of heights, try walking on a high bridge. Make sure you stick to something safe. If something bad happens, your fear may get worse.
- Find your happy place. Taking some risks may make your life happier and more fulfilling, but other risks may not have the same effect. Experiment with risk taking in small steps to find out what level of risk enhances your life. There's no reason to challenge your own comfort with risks that won't do you any good.
- Remember that everyone is different. Some people thrive under constant pressure, while others are happier with a more steady routine. You will know when you have found the right balance for you when you feel fulfilled and have no regrets about the risks you didn't take.
- Know that you can always back out. Just because you've decided to take a risk does not mean that you can't change your mind. Always go with your gut and don't be afraid to change your plan along the way.
- There's a difference between changing your mind and giving up. Try not to back out because you are too afraid to go through with taking the risk. Instead, back out if you realize that the risk is not worth taking or if an alternative presents itself that will provide the same or better benefits.
Being Smart About Risks
- Avoid reckless risks. There are some risks that are never worth it, like driving drunk or committing a crime. If there is substantial risk of injury or punishment and no true benefit, don't take the risk.
- Risks that pose unnecessary harm to other people are usually not worth it either. It is not your place to risk the safety of other people.
- Risky sports like sky diving may be the exception to this rule. For some, this may be a reasonable risk because the adrenaline rush and genuine enjoyment are a huge reward. For others, this may seem like a reckless risk.
- Always weigh the risks and benefits. If you want to make smart choices, it's very important to understand how much risk a given activity involves, how significant the risk is, and what the potential benefits are. Carefully compare the possible consequences with the possible benefits in order to determine if a risk is worth it for you.
- Some risks may be worth it in certain situations, but not in others. For example, if you want to quit your job and move to a new city with no plan, the risks will be higher if the economy is bad and you have a lot of debt to pay off than they will if the economy is flourishing and you are debt-free.
- It helps to have as clear an understanding as possible of what could actually go wrong. If you can get some kind of objective data or talk to an expert about the potential outcome, do it. If not, take some time to think through the possible consequences carefully.
- Try assigning a number value to each risk and benefit. (The worse the risk or better the benefit, the higher the number.) This can help you compare the risks and benefits of a specific activity in a very logical way. For example, if you are contemplating a risky investment, assign a number to the possibility of losing your investment (maybe an 8) and one to the possibility of making a fortune (maybe a 10). Then compare these two to help you determine whether the risk is worth it.
- Maintain a safety net. While taking risks is often a good thing, you should always make sure there is something in place to protect you from the worst case scenario. For example, if you want to start a business, your knowledge and experience can protect you from failure. If you want to swim with sharks, a cage can protect you from being eaten.
- In many cases, a financial safety net is a very good idea. Having a little cushion to protect you against losing your home and not being able to feed your family can make it much easier to take the risk of starting a business.
- Have a plan for failure. It's important not to fixate on the worst possible scenario (because this can prevent you from taking any kind of risk), but it does pay to be prepared. Before you take a risk that has potentially serious consequences, plan out how you will handle the worst case scenario.
- For example, if you want to invest all of your savings into a new business, come up with a way that you will be able to pay your mortgage if the business fails, such as renting out a room in your house.
- If you are taking a risk by asking a stranger out on a date, decide in advance that you will say something like, "Okay, no problem. Have a nice day," if he says no.
- Consider others. Whenever you take a risk, it's important to think of the way your decision may affect others. For example, if the thing you want to do carries a serious risk of injury or death, think about how this will affect your family when deciding if the risk is worth it.
- If your risk will have a serious impact on another person, it may be a good idea to talk to them about it. While it is ultimately your decision, it will help to know how the other person feels about it.
- Even if you make a thorough plan for executing your risk, you still need to take that plunge! Have faith in yourself that you have made the proper preparations, and don't let fear hold you back.
- Do not do anything extremely dangerous. Free falling from a high cliff is not a good risk to take.
- Always follow the law. While stealing money from a bank is a risk, it is illegal and should not be done.
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