How to Know If a Risk is Worth Taking

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud… was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” (Anais Nin)    

So many of you have told me that you often feel like you are holding yourself back from achieving your goals. Life throws you an opportunity to consider, but you get so caught up on the potential risks that you wind up staying put right in your comfort zone where everything feels safe and familiar. And as a result… you never wind up taking any risks at all because the uncertainty that you feel is enough to stop you dead in your tracks every time.

I totally understand that! Life is all about choices, and no matter what choice we make whether in our personal or professional life, it comes with its own set of potential benefits and risks… And it can be a challenge to figure out if and when making a move is right for you.

Here’s the thing about risks, though: If you don’t ever take a step out of your comfort zone, you never allow yourself the opportunity to grow and to move onto the bigger and better things that life can bring.

This week on Episode 077 of Productivity Paradox, I talk a little more in depth about risk taking: what it is, and how we can use it to our advantage so that we can start to take those small steps out of our comfort zone in the pursuit of our goals.

Today, I thought I would share a couple of ways that you can start breaking down some of the decisions you are faced with so that you can determine if and when taking a risk is the right move for you.

First, let me just say outright that when I talk about taking risks, I’m not talking about being reckless when it comes to decision making. More importantly, when I talk about taking risks, what I mean is being able to let something guaranteed (the safety of your comfort zone) go just a little bit in exchange for the potential of something greater later down the road.

Now, some people are more prone to being risk takers—and that’s okay if you don’t fall into that category! I know that I for one am a huge risk taker. I dream big and I often risk big…. But, I never take big risks unless I’ve absolutely thought them through.

For me, it’s not about leaping off of the cliff of uncertainty… Rather, it’s about standing at the edge, taking the time to assess whether you really CAN make the jump, and then going for it by giving yourself a running start.

So, how do we help ourselves become better risk takers and to develop the tools we need to figure out when a risk is right for us?

 

Manage Your Fear —

 

When we feel fearful and confuse it with our intuition, we assume that it means that we shouldn’t take the risk we’re considering, and instead we decide to stay in our comfort zone… Meaning, if it feels scary, it must be really risky!

Here is the truth, though: Fear is a completely natural state. We all experience it, even if some of us are more prone to taking risks than others.

Public speaking is a common fear for so many of us, but if you really stop to think about it… Speaking in public isn’t actually that risky! Sure, people might judge you based on your ability to speak well, or they may not connect with your message, but their judgment of you certainly won’t kill you (even if it feels that way).

A while back, I shared a download on managing fear, and I think that it really applies here as well when it comes to taking risks and learning to trust our intuition. Managing fear is a huge stepping stone when it comes to moving forward with our goals, and what I like best about the download is that it walks you through the very simple process of really analyzing the risk at hand so that you can assess whether it’s a risk with intention or not.

I encourage you to grab a copy in the show notes of Episode 077 of the podcast and to use it as a tool to help you get in tune with what your intuition is really trying to tell you in the absence of fear… You just might be surprised by what it has to say!

 

Create a Pros and Cons List —

 

When it comes to deciding to go for it or not, we can’t calculate risk based on our level of fear. Instead, we have to learn how to assess the risk realistically by looking at the facts.

Something that I like to do prior to taking a risk is to create a pros and cons list. With the potential benefits and risks clearly outlined in front of me, I’m able to see the key facts of my choices clearly and in a logical order, which helps me feel more comfortable with my decision making.

Writing down the key facts and reading back over them will not only help you to see  risks logically, but it will also help you balance out your emotions—nipping fear in the bud as a result.

 

Remember This Formula —

 

Once you’ve set your fear aside and have created your pros and cons list, the next thing to consider is the likelihood of success when taking a risk.

A great formula to remember comes from Andreas Wilke, a psychology professor at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York who studies decision making…

Chance of Success x Benefit of Success > Chance of Failure x Cost of Failure = Go For It

If the chances of success (the likelihood that you’ll make the jump once you give yourself a running start) times the benefit of success is greater than the chance of failure times the cost of failure… GO FOR IT!

The next time you’re considering stepping out of your comfort zone for the promise of something bigger and better, I encourage you to set your fear aside, create a pros and cons list, and then consider the benefits against the costs… If all signs point to taking the risk, give yourself a running start and jump.

 

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What are some of the risks that you’re considering taking right now in your life, and what do you feel might be holding you back from moving forward?

Be sure to share your story in the comments below, and check out Episode 077 of Productivity Paradox to get your copy of this week’s free download on managing fear so that you can break free from your comfort zone and give yourself the permission to grow!

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Tonya Dalton
Tonya Dalton