When I mention “risk” to my mentees, I get all sorts of reactions. Some tell me they find it scary. Others are of the opinion that risk keeps them on their toes.

Risk is a double-edged sword. Ignore it, and you get hurt. Accept it, and you’ll challenge yourself to explore your full potential.

But it’s never easy to know exactly when to push your boundaries or how to pull back because you went too far. You could spend a long time procrastinating on the next step, and miss opportunities. Or make a move too early, and fail miserably.

All the risk managers I’ve worked with have taught me that the art of risk taking is a way to structure your thoughts, and even promote innovative thinking!

Wondering how to move from procrastinator to assertive? Here’s how to take risks safely and challenge yourself.

 

Risk taking inspires us

 

People are more prone to risk taking if they’ve seen others do so previously. This was the conclusion of a study that went so far as to call this behaviour “contagious risk taking”. When you display an attitude where you challenge yourself to take risks safely, others will emulate. That’s (in short) how being inspired by somebody else works.

Think of the impact you could have if you lead people (a team at work, a family at home, or just yourself)!

But before you can become a confident role model, you need to master the art of testing your limits. Because when you try to gain confidence, the impact can be devastating if you don’t get it right.

 


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Challenge yourself to take risks safely

 

A risk is a situation involving exposure to danger. “Danger” could be a physical threat (like dying if you were to jump out of a plane) or a threat you perceive emotionally (for example, not wanting to give your opinion out of fear of being judged).

Knowing how to take risks safely is nothing less than exploring what you can do when facing a dangerous situation. If you think challenging yourself could be the path to doing bigger things, don’t forget you need to do it in a way that fosters growth and not fear!

Related: Acting with intention in the face of risk

That’s why it all starts with a careful exploration of the borders of your comfort zone.

  • How much you can take: your capacity
  • How far you’re willing to go: your risk appetite

Then, you need to balance these 2 elements when you’re in action, so that any risk you take wins almost every time.

 

Challenge yourself to see how far you CAN go

 

Challenge yourself to see how far you CAN go

 

Simply put, it is the maximum risk you are able to tolerate. What would you dare to do? For some, standing in front of more than 5 people is unbearable. For others, travelling by plane is way out of their comfort zone. For some parents, leaving their kids with a baby sitter for a night out is inconceivable.

What matters when you want to challenge yourself is knowing precisely what is too much. Ask yourself the question: is it discomfort, or real pain? Do you feel you’re going way past what you can do?

 

Challenge yourself to see how far you WANT to go

 

Challenge yourself to see how far you WANT to go

 

Your appetite for risk is the risk you’re willing to accept to achieve your objectives. It usually depends on your self-confidence and (of course) your various life experiences.

Say you’re not a born speaker, but need to deliver an important presentation to secure funding. That might be enough for you to get over the fear and do it. You don’t leave your kids with a baby sitter, but it’s your 10th wedding anniversary: you might agree to leave them with your mother for the night.

We are, of course, talking a lot about confidence here. Are you afraid of taking risks and being bolder? If you felt safe that nothing “life-threatening” could happen, what would you try to challenge yourself? What is the compromise you’d make?

 

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it - Goethe

 

Now, let’s pause here. Most people make a huge mistake when they start challenging themselves. They think appetite and capacity is the same thing. They try something way out of their comfort zone, push full force, meet resistance or fear (or just something more difficult than what they envisioned in the first place). Usually, they fail, and never try again.

When you can balance how far you want to go, and how far you can go, you know where you stand each and every time. Sure, you might have to focus better, challenge yourself a little and do a few trial tests. Sometimes, you will need to go beyond what you think your limits are. But by making it a recurring practice, you slowly get to know more about your risk taking pattern. You make more informed decisions. And gradually become used to expanding your comfort zone.

 

Trying to reach your limits is a good thing and the foundation for developing a growth mindset.

But you might need help to ensure you can fail safely, and understand where the thin line is between what you think you can do, what you can do, and if failure will harm you more than it will teach you.

There’s no secret to challenging yourself and developing a risk-friendly attitude: you need to try and accept that you might fail and, step by step, build up the resilience to explore the borders of your comfort zone.

Are you afraid to take risks? Share your opinion below.

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