5 Surprising Ways to Embrace Risk....#5 is my favorite

mindset stress success Dec 30, 2023

We are just two days away from 2024!! As we embark on the New Year, there is often a feeling of hope and excitement. New goals, new energy, and a renewed commitment to making things happen. I love that feeling and yes, I am one of the few who still gets excited about making New Year’s Resolutions.

However, before I create a new vision, I always make a point of looking at what I accomplished last year and why those goals happened. If you haven’t done that, I highly recommend setting an alarm for 10 minutes and writing down everything you accomplished that made you feel happy or proud last year. It doesn’t matter if it’s big or small, in fact, some of the small things often have the greatest impact. Then reflect, how does it feel? And what do you notice??

As I reviewed my year, there was undoubtedly a common thread around the things I was most proud of and that is RISK. Ahhhhh that big, scary thing that raises your heart rate just by saying the word! Yet, the reality is all of those really hard goals, that at one point felt impossible were achieved by stepping wildly outside my comfort zone and taking action despite the fear.

Mark Zuckerberg has said, “The biggest risk is not taking any risk…. In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risk.”  

However, in a twist of human irony, mankind is actually hardwired to avoid risks. Our survival mechanism or “threat protection system” instantly kicks in the moment we detect risk, and our bodies reflexively move into fight, flight, or fright. At that point, the mind and body perceives survival to be infinitely more important than quitting your job, making that sales call, or going out on a date.

There are a few other sneaky stress responses that can get in the way of big action. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • There is a constant need to be busy, but stress limits your ability to discern what is most important. So, you get distracted by a million safe tasks and don’t “have time” to do the perceived risky action that could make a bigger difference.
  • When we get distressed, we tend to fall into old patterns and take the path of least resistance, even when we know it’s not the best choice. Something like…. staying home alone and eating a pint of ice cream instead of going out and trying something new.
  • Under stress we also tend to lose faith in ourselves and can more easily fall into “group think”. We stop trusting our choices and decisions and start doing what everyone else does or thinks we should do.

The good news is we can retrain the brain and the nervous system to accept risk, even perhaps, find it exciting. Now I’m not suggesting you need to quit your job, sell your home, and take up cliff diving. Everyone has their “risk set point” and their personal goals. This is not a one size fits all but when you have that gut feeling or you know in your heart there is more you are capable of, listen, lean in and TAKE THAT RISK!  

Here are 5 surprising ways to help you take bigger risks for greater rewards.

  1. Gamify- When we reframe risk and make it something fun like a game, it changes the neurological response. Fun reduces stress and secretes dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin…all good feeling chemicals. Gamification has also been proven to increase engagement, support cognitive development and improve learning.

So how might you create a game out of one of those “risks” that feels “scary”.   Perhaps, add a time component or a fun reward?

  1. Assess Risk from Emotional and Real Data- We are usually experts at judging risk from an emotional perspective. However, that often leads to catastrophizing and only seeing the worst-case scenario or irrational fears like, I might die if I get up and speak in front of people. When you weigh in with real facts and strong educated assessments, you will learn that there have been zero reported deaths from public speaking, and it is classified as a non-life-threatening activity. The fact is real data can help ground the fear and make you realize your risk may not be so bad after all.
  2. Practice: Professional athletes, musicians, top CEOS, even toddlers do this because it works! We often think risk takers just naturally wake up and do crazy things. The reality is they do their homework, study details at length and rehearse. Many also include visualization as a way to practice since the body doesn’t know the difference between what is imagined and what is real. Imagining yourself doing an action, is like a dress rehearsal for the real performance.

What can you practice or study that will help you take those bigger risks?

  1. Always Remember the Big Picture: Are your actions serving the bigger goal or have you gone down the busy rabbit hole to avoid what really needs to happen? I see this a lot with clients (ok, myself too). It seems like there is productive energy and intention being directed toward the goal. However, if you ask, “What must happen to achieve that goal” or one of my favorites, “What if it were easy, what would you do?” a whole list of other more important actions are often revealed.

Big goals require both little tasks and big, “risky” actions- it’s ok to do both, just make sure you cultivate the flower and don’t get caught in the weeds.

  1. Create a Badass Persona. I’ll admit, as a former soap actress, this study made me smile. In a 2016 study published in the National Library of Medicine, scientists determined that “people were better at problem solving and taking risks when they were directed to behave like an eccentric poet vs a rigid librarian.” The rules we have for ourselves are different depending on the persona we portray.

It made me think of a story I read years ago about Lisa, a struggling actress in Los Angeles who created a character who became her make believe “manager”. The pretend manager was named Fiona, she had a British accent and a whole backstory, separate phone number, email, and even a fake assistant. When Lisa “pretended” to be Fiona she was able to sell and pitch herself like an old car’s salesman. And it worked! She got auditions and ultimately landed some great jobs. Eventually, people figured out Fiona was really Lisa but by then she had booked enough work, she was able to get real representation.

This is rather extreme but it’s a powerful example of what can happen when you become the persona of someone who would take those risks.

So here is your Oscar winning moment…..what fearless superhero are you ready to step into and what’s possible if you do?

Remember you are already a risk taker- you have been taking risks since you were a baby learning to crawl. So, you have lots of data to prove that you are more than capable, and it’s been worth it. And with a little bit of courage, practice, and patience, we can all continue to raise the bar of possibility. Here is to a great 2024 full of lots of exciting, fun, and proud moments.

Go take a risk and SHINE!










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