Confront Risk and Kick Life’s Ass
No matter how you cut it risk is a part of life. Every choice we make big or small comes with some level of risk. But most of the time, this risk is hidden. Sure driving a car can be dangerous, but most of the time, it’s mundane.
But sometimes in life, when faced with a big choice this ever-present risk becomes apparent. All of a sudden, we realize that our choices have real lasting consequences we can’t possibly predict.
We may want to make a choice but are so afraid of the unknown that we are willing to stay in our current suffering rather than risk stepping into the abyss.
Stepping Into the Abyss
I have a lot of experience stepping into the unknown. Before I was 28 years old, I held over 30 jobs and dramatically changed my life more than a few times. But despite the fact that I’m experienced at making big changes I still feel this anxiety when I face the risk of making the wrong choice.
Recently I went through a rough patch because I doubted my choice to start my own business. While the initial risk had seemed easy, the temptation to abandon MindFitMove for something more stable became very tempting. But eventually I was able to overcome this fear and move forward. And I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned.
How To Stare Down Risk
Trust Yourself –
The first step to facing down risk is to find a way to trust yourself. Most of us are survivors and have had some success in the past. Yet we imagine that the future will present some challenge we cannot overcome.
What I have found repeatedly is that in almost all occasions trusting your biggest wisest self in the right thing to do. Now this doesn’t mean you should take huge stupid risks like trying to do surgery on a friend using an I-phone app. But it does mean that we are better and stronger than we think.
As we get comfortable, many of us forget our early days when we started a job, learned new things, and climbed our way up the ladder. Sure things may not turn out exactly the same this time around, but if you’ve done it before you can do it again.
Skills cross apply more than you think and ultimately the biggest things standing in your way are your own fears and own ideas about yourself.
Three Questions –
When we are facing the risk of making the wrong choice, we often become trapped in analysis. For years, I used these three questions to help me clarify what I’m afraid of and get the courage to take the next step.
- What is the worst thing that could happen?
- What is the best thing that could happen?
- What is the most likely thing that could happen?
The first question helps because it forces me to see what I’m afraid of. By being willing to sit down and write out this terrible outcome or tell it to a good friend something often shifts. By acknowledging this risk fully, I’m able to face it more directly.
The second question captures what I hope to create by taking this risk. Often we are so caught up in the pitfalls, that we forget the potential joy that may result in taking a leap of faith.
In some ways, the final question is the most important. Because even though our minds tend to focus on the best and worst, we forget that life is usually a mixture of both challenge and triumph.
Reality is usually not as good or as bad as we imagine in the short term. But over the long term, taking risks is often worth it. Especially if it’s the kind of risk where we follow our own hearts and dreams.
Expand Your View
One of the reasons people get trapped in contemplating risk is that they see only one path forward. And that path is fraught with danger.
I saw this a lot in the music business. People wanted to be successful musicians and they thought that meant getting signed to a huge record deal. When I met people like this I worried about them. Not because I didn’t think they could make it, but because their image success was very limited.
Sure becoming a huge rock star is one way to be a successful. But there are lots of other ways as well. You can become a session player, you can get a great regular gig at a bar, you can build your own fan base and sell the music directly, or you can start a business that lets you play for free and not worry about money. There are a million ways to succeed in the music business if you are willing to work at it.
The problem is that most people don’t see those ways and so they get stuck thinking there’s only one path forward. So it’s essential when you confront risk that you look at all the paths forward.
Could you try to start a new business on the side? Could you get a job in the industry to learn while you earn? Could you collaborate with someone who already has some of the knowledge you need?
No matter what you are shooting for there are many paths if you are willing to take off your blinders and look.
Take the Leap
Nothing reveals the nature of something quite like being in the midst of it. If you’ve weighed all the options, thought carefully, and are pretty sure your idea isn’t totally hair brained, but are still trapped by your fear of risk, nothing is more effective then just going for it.
When I was younger and went on roller coasters I learned that the anticipation of the ride was always much more scary than the ride itself. If you wait in the line of life, that huge first climb will seem massive, the drops terrifying, and the loops impossible. But when you step into reality, nothing is how it looked from the outside.
One thing I’ve learned from all the risks I’ve taken over the years is that in the moment there isn’t time to be afraid. You just live and respond to what is right in front of you. Sure you may face things that you couldn’t have predicted, but that’s true no matter what you do.
A Simple Choice
Facing risks is really about a simple choice. Do you want to look back and remember a life where you worked hard to live the life you wanted even though you stumbled along the way? Or would you rather look back and wonder what if you had faced those risks when you had the chance.
For me the choice has always been clear. Life is too short the volunteer for years of inauthentic suffering. This life is calling you to take action now. And while you should think about your options and avoid being foolhardy, when it comes time to face risk, I hope that you’ll trust yourself and your path enough to take that first step.
What Choice Are You Going To Make?