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3 steps to know when to risk

I hear that taking a risk is a bad thing. I hear it a lot. I don’t agree: It stops a person from moving forward, from doing something exciting, because that person is afraid they will lose what they already have. There’s an old way of thinking: “what I have may not be much, but at least I know it and understand it. If I can settle for what I have, then I’ll feel safe.”

The thing is that while you may feel safe with what’s familiar, that doesn’t mean you are safe.  One example you may have experienced is downsizing of a company – that company that was going to carry you through to retirement. I recently spoke with a friend who’s boss was fired – someone everyone loved and admired, because he made too much money. Seeing someone who didn’t deserve to be fired unnerved everyone who remained, helping to burn away that rose-tinted lens of feeling safe that they were unwittingly wearing.

Many people won’t venture out on their own because they assume it’s way too risky. Well it is risky, but then so is staying put, as we saw.

How then, can you know which risk is better?  There are 3 things to keep in mind:

  1. Take a realistic look at what you will get from taking the risk. Not so much the result you want 10 years down the road, but how you’ll start and grown. There are so many variables along that 10 year road that it’s really not certain. But a year into the future is a lot more predictable.  For instance, if you want to start a cookie business, have you determined what you could manage to do on your own, the expected revenue and the next steps; or are you already heading your own company of 100 employees? The first will cost you what you can more easily afford, and you will be able to afford to cover mistakes much better – and mistakes are inevitable.
  2. Take a realistic look at what it might cost. Not your wild fears of disaster – but researched, considered possibilities. Again using the imagined cookie business, what happens in case of a fire, or if you’re renting, that the rent goes up too much? It isn’t that hard to list more likely issues and hard possible ones (like fire). Then it’s a matter of determining what you could do about it and how you might fund it.
  3. Finally, take a moment to check in with yourself. This 3rd step is as essential as the first 2. Unlike the first 2 steps, it involves your values and not your mind. Close your eyes, take some deep slow breaths in and out until you feel yourself settle. Then imagine 2 things: first imagine venturing forth, then imagine staying put. In each case, ask yourself how you feel viscerally – a fluttering in your chest, light, or a tightness in your chest and neck, for instance. For me, the first is a positive sign, and the second a negative one. How you feel tells you what kind of value the venture is for you.

If your feeling is positive, if you’ve done your homework and feel pretty sure you can cover the learning curve, then that would tell me the risk is worth it. It’s worth it because it will help you live your life with meaning and purpose. If on the other hand, the feeling is negative, then perhaps it needs more time. Meanwhile, you can continue to enjoy your relatively risk-free life, guilt-free as well.


Quote of the Week

If you opt for a safe life, you will never know what it’s like to win.
― Richard Branson


How risk-taking changes a teenager’s brain


Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist. To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at .