It can be so easy to stay in our comfort zone, right? Especially when it comes to the workplace. We get so wrapped up in what’s familiar, what feels safe, and what’s constant that we seldom give ourselves the permission to seek out bigger and better thing. We get so afraid of the uncertainty and the potential risks that stepping beyond what we already know might bring.
Here is something to consider, though — One of the most damaging things that you can do when it comes to progressing in your career… is to stay put where you feel comfortable.
Learning how to take intentional risks is imperative when it comes to advancing in the workplace, and it’s this week’s topic on Episode 077 of Productivity Paradox. While I share some information behind risk taking in the podcast… Here, I want to share some achievable ways that you can take professional risks to get the results that you want so that you can progress in your career.
The secret to being able to take risks comes as a series of small changes to shift your mindset. Practicing these in your daily life will help you to make big decisions quickly without second-guessing yourself.
One thing I want to encourage you to do is to tell yourself a story where you are a strong person who is willing to take risks. Instead of shrinking away from the fear of failure or of uncertainty, give yourself a pep talk and the grace to change the way you view yourself so that you can turn fear on its head and start to view risks as opportunities to grow instead of as threats.
Just like you would talk yourself up to boost your confidence prior to going to an interview, convince yourself that you are strong and courageous when you’re faced with a tough decision and are considering the risks in front of you. Once you shift your mindset and start to view yourself as a risk taker, the light will begin to shift in a positive direction.
Often, our lack of confidence in ourselves when it comes to taking risks at work stems from our lack of experience or confidence in our skills.
Whatever it is that you want to do, whether it’s giving a speech or going for a promotion, start deliberately practicing to improve your skills and to gain experience.
If it’s a promotion you’re considering, do a little research into the position and figure out the necessary skills that you might need to bring to the table. If the expectations of the job extend a little beyond your current scope of responsibilities, give yourself the opportunity to explore (a risk in and of itself!)… And start practicing the skills you might need to perform in your new role.
The more confidence you can gain by learning new skills necessary to the risk you’re considering, the better and more comfortable you will feel when the time comes to jump right in and go for it.
No matter what, setting goals is the first step to actually taking risks and getting the positive outcomes that you want.
If the risk you’re taking is applying for opportunities of some kind—whether it’s jobs, grants, schools, and so on—treat submitting the application as both a goal and as success in and of itself. Even if you’re not accepted and you receive a letter of rejection, that’s still physical proof that you tried… And trying is half of the battle of taking risks!
I spoke about this back in Episode 042, but I feel that it warrants sharing again here: More often than not, we can use setbacks or rejection as motivation to keep taking risks and to keep pushing forward.
Author Elizabeth Gilbert is a great example of what I mean here. Gilbert used to collect her rejection letters as a means of giving herself the motivation to keep submitting her work to even more publications… And you know what, her determination paid off!
The more you get your head around the idea that even small steps, or small risks, are worth it… the more likely your mindset will start to shift and you’ll view taking risks as commonplace when it comes to progressing in the workplace.
Just as it is important to grow your skills, it is equally important to practice your skills in new arenas—like giving a speech to a small dinner party, for example—so that you can push yourself outside of your comfort zone and learn how to adjust to taking risks.
A great thing to remember here is that very little in life is constant except for yourself. When it comes to the workplace, our limitations and the confines of our jobs can change or shift at any moment, and it’s important to learn how to roll with those moments when they come our way.
Those of us who have been forced to change already understand that what feels comfortable is not always what is best. Leaving your comfort zone, even just by taking small risks at a time for the potential of something more, can create a feeling of satisfaction and self-respect as it helps you to learn and redefine what you are truly capable of doing.
A great idea to remember is that failure just means that you’re pushing yourself out of your comfort zone… and that the only true failure is the one that you don’t learn from.
To help you become comfortable with possible setbacks that can come from taking risks, I want to encourage you to try activities that you sometimes struggle with. Overcoming perceived limitations will not only help you to acquire new skills, but it will also improve your brain power and confidence.
Normalizing failure in the workplace can also help us to overcome those unsettling feelings that we encounter when we consider taking a risk. Disappointment in the outcome of our work often leads to a fear of failure, which then inhibits our creativity.
Instead of allowing yourself to be bogged down by fear, set a baseline failure rate like Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon. Bezos says that Amazon is the best place in the world to fail, because the company is willing to take big risks even knowing that more than half of them will fail.
So, for example, the next time you take a big risk, set a baseline failure rate for yourself. If 90% of what you try fails, but 10% is successful… You’re doing a great job!
While I will admit that it is incredibly important to have a game plan if you’re thinking of taking a big risk like, for example, quitting your job and moving to a new city… It’s just as important to allow room for some flexibility when it comes to the plan you have in place.
When you start to really dive into the risk, you may have to rework your original plan and take on new opportunities that you hadn’t thought of at first… And that’s okay! The key here is to lessen the likelihood that you’ll fall into old patterns of disappointment and fear of failure, so that you can instead learn to be comfortable with change as it comes and adjust your sails accordingly in the pursuit of the achievement of your goals and career plans.
What are some of the ways that you have learned to be comfortable with taking risks in the workplace? If you have any tips and tricks of your own, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!
And, if you have not had the chance to tune in already, I want to invite you to head over to Episode 077 of Productivity Paradox to gain a little more insight into what risk taking is all about, and how you can reshape the way you think about taking risks both at home and in the workplace so you can get out of your comfort zone and start taking the necessary steps toward your goals.