All of us have fears—especially when it comes to taking risks in our professional and personal lives. In fact, it’s been said that FEAR stands for “Forget Everything And Run,” which is a logical reaction given that, by definition, risk is “the possibility of suffering harm or loss,” and involves “uncertain danger.” But, amid the vast upside possibilities, I prefer to negate the negative connotations associated with risk and repudiate the debilitating aversion to “learning the hard way.” People actually learn best by feeling the result of their actions, whether that result is positive or negative. Indeed, our most powerful knowledge base comes from taking small and large risks in life, and experiencing the consequences—the good, the bad and the ugly.
So many are understandably fearful of getting out of their comfort zone and taking those barrier-busting leaps of faith. However, for me, the word “risk” evokes a sense of excitement. Of limitless possibility. It reminds me of the famously insightful notion to “go out on a limb, because that’s where the fruit is." Truer words cannot be spoken as risk is the preeminent propelling force that helps companies and individuals, alike, accelerate and achieve key success benchmarks.
Here are 4 pieces of wisdom to help you foil your fear of risk and supercharge positive change in your life:
1. Define and debunk your fears. Acting upon something with an unknown result can be an uneasy feeling, especially if something of value is at stake. But, what exactly are you afraid of? The amount of work involved for you? The potential financial loss if it doesn’t work out? The possibility of being perceived as a failure? Start by defining your fears with specificity, either in your mind or, better, by writing them down. During this process, be sure you conceive what you believe to be the “worst case scenario” and the probability of that coming to fruition. The worst case scenario rarely plays out, so you can rest easier on that front. Once all of your fears are itemized, for each and every one detail how you would move past it if it were to materialize. Determining the likelihood of each feared event and how each would be dealt with can give you an invigorating sense of reassurance.
2. Embrace fear. Many people are deterred from taking risks because of the fear of failure, disappointment and others’ perception of the failure. However, while failure is not something that anyone wants to experience, it statistically increases your chances of success. Did you know 9 out of 10 startup companies fail, and that the average millionaire goes bankrupt at least 3.5 times? So, statistically speaking, some would say that the more times you fail the higher chance you have of succeeding the next time. With fear, the key is to not only identify it, but actually take control and use it to drive you towards that which you covet from afar, stagnated by inaction. And, most importantly, never make a decision based on fear. I actually assert that you should appreciate fear as, without it, your achievement or success wouldn’t be so rewarding if fear wasn’t there to serve as a barometer and provide perspective on what was attained. Moreover, how boring life would be without fear. The process of understanding your fears, taking calculated risks, and achieving the success or parlaying the failure into something positive is a far more rewarding journey than a life lived without any risk-taking, regardless of the outcome.
3. Know when to put fear aside and take a risk. Don’t quit your job or end an important relationship on a whim! All justifiable risks have a time and a place---and that’s certainly not all day, every day. Ideal situations for risk taking are those where you have the time and/or resources needed to “rescue” yourself should your pre-determined worst case scenario present. The risks with the most at stake are also best taken when time is on your side and you can put contingency efforts—Plan B, C, and D—in place if needed. It’s also better to take a big risk when you are stable, such as when finances and life circumstances are on your side—optimally when you have a support system should things take a turn for the worse. All of that said, there is another ideal circumstance for a big risk that’s actually quite the opposite: when your back is against the wall, and you don’t have that much to lose. When your only way out is up, it’s time to take that leap of faith.
4. Leverage failure, don’t fear it. Focusing on the positive is where your mindset should be, however, should you fail, you do need to deal with that reality in a constructive way. The most important aspect of leveraging failure is knowing exactly why you failed. Dissect the situation and identify all possible and real causes of the breakdown. It can also be helpful to enlist the help of a third party, such as a friend, family member, colleague or a consultant or life coach, who can lend objective outside perspective and provide neutral insight. Sometimes it’s difficult to “see the forest through the trees.” Only from a comprehensive understanding of what went wrong can you move forward with the same confidence with which you started. The second most important part is not losing hope. Don’t let failure consume you, but rather use it as a learning tool and a resource that will help you attain your next goal.
Before you embark upon an anxiety-provoking or downright frightening journey rife with risks, measure your resolve by first asking yourself if you are willing to go through four defeats to achieve the fifth win that makes you a success? Remember: “If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." No guts, no glory!
Andy Thompson is an international faith leader, life coach, cultural commentator and pastor of one of America’s 50 largest congregations. As a highly regarded speaker, Thompson shares his inspirational message for realizing personal and professional success through conferences, books and through media outlets worldwide. He may be reached at www.AndyThompson.tv or via Twitter @PastorAndyWOCC.