To live is to risk. Risk-taking is as essential to life as breathing. It is the oxygen of such things as innovation, entrepreneurialism, leadership, wealth creation, and high adventure. Without risk, there can be no scientific progress, economic expansion, or community activism. At a more personal level, remove risk and there is no personal growth, career advancement, or spiritual development (faith, after all, is a big risk). Personally and collectively, all progress, advancement, and momentum depend on risk. Like air, it is both nourishing and lifesustaining. And, like change, risk is constant, inescapable, and inevitable.
To risk is to live. As a vehicle to personal progress, taking risks is the surest way to get from where you are to where you want to be. The most fulfilling times in your life—the times you felt most alive—have undoubtedly been when you surprised yourself by doing something you never imagined you could, something hard, something scary. Though most of us have enjoyed the accompanying rewards of an intelligently taken risk, most of us have crashed-’n-burned under an ill-considered one as well. By definition, to face risk is to be vulnerable and exposed to harm. Consequently, we spend a lot of time trying to avoid risk by “playing it safe.” Chances are, anytime you have passed up a big opportunity, stayed in an unsatisfying situation, or failed to stick up for yourself, avoiding risk had a lot to do with your behavior.
In a world that continually reminds us about how unsafe it is, it is difficult to maintain a “play it safe” approach. From terrorist threats, to stock market gyrations, to corporate implosions, we are buffeted by the reckless risks of others. In an increasingly compressed and frenetic world, we are like billiard balls being smacked around in somebody else’s poolhall hustle.
Ironically, those who play it safe may be in the greatest danger. When we don’t take risks we get stuck in a rut of safety. Over time, we become trapped inside our own life, like a pearl confined to its shell. Life becomes stale and boring. We grow resentful at ourselves for letting our grand passions languish. We tell ourselves, there’s got to be something more out there for me. But we know we’ll never find it unless we take more risks.
Here are a few questions that can be used when you aim to take more risks:
- For the sake of what? In other words, what are you hoping to achieve by taking more risks?
- What are you ready to lose? When you “take” a risk, you have to be prepared to sacrifice something in return. What are you willing to let go of in order to gain something through the risk?
- What if you don’t risk? Every risk can be divided into two: the risk of action and the risk of inaction. If you don’t take the risk, what negative impacts could result from your inaction.
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