People who realize their potential make risk-taking routine.
Say the word risk. Yep, right now …
Doesn’t it sound a little vulgar? Like a curse word.
Did you hear it?
The -sk ending makes the word come off as both tough and a bit harsh. Add an “s” to make it plural, and it becomes full on awkward.
Taking risks can be as rough as saying the word, but risks are central to courage. In fact, courage is a choice to face a risk or challenge for a worthy purpose. The word risk even appears in the center of that description of courage.
Risks are defined as situations involving exposure to danger. Since we’re biologically wired to avoid danger, we can easily register risk-taking as antagonistic and maybe even unnecessary. What the definition doesn’t mention, however, is that risks also expose us to opportunity and growth. Psychologist Abraham Maslow believed that people who actualize their potential make risk-taking routine. They choose growth over fear consistently. And, those people likely start by taking small risks.
Smaller risks provide opportunities to entertain discomfort, interpret emotions, and evaluate outcomes in low-stakes environments. They help habituate us to fear and navigate within uncertainty without exposure to grave danger. In this way, risk-taking on a micro level acts like exposure therapy, which according to the American Psychological Association is therapy that “creates a safe environment in which to ‘expose’ individuals to the things they fear and avoid.” Having success with small risks allows us to build upon those successes with larger risks involving larger consequences.
How do you take more risks?
Two important tools that support consistent risk-taking are: deliberate effort and a journal.
Risk-taking is uncomfortable and easy to avoid, so intentional effort is often necessary to act. Making a risk-taking goal and writing it down is an essential starting point. Returning to the journal to record thoughts and feelings that come up before, during, and after an action is helpful to interpreting those impressions. Why? Writing things down has been proven to improve our capability to adapt from previous experiences. Comparing notes from the 50th risk taken to notes from the first one should illustrate that adaptation.
Where do you start?
If you don’t know where to start on the road to taking more risks, I’ve listed 12 ideas to get you thinking. Note that these only serve as samples of the types of risks you can take on a regular basis to build your experience, settle into discomfort and flex your figure-it-out skills.
- Try a new cuisine.
- Go to a movie or dinner by yourself.
- Share a goal with someone you respect.
- Reach out to your favorite writer to share your admiration.
- Start a conversation with a stranger.
- Try navigating without a GPS.
- Take a salsa dancing class.
- Go a day without a cell phone.
- Try a different hairstyle.
- Ask for help.
- Wear a bold color.
- Tell the truth.
So, what risk did you take today? Please share in the comments.