Have you ever thought about how often we part by urging each other to be careful? ‘Take care’, we say or ‘Look after yourself’. It seems friendly and well meaning and of course, we want to see our friends again. However, we might actually be doing them a disservice. We are sending them a message that they should not take any risks. That is a similar message to the ones we have probably been receiving ourselves since childhood. While no sensible person would urge us to take risks with fire or safety on the road, that “Take care” can also give another message.
These subtle signals restrict our growth and our development. They essentially urge us to remain where we are. They tell us not to take chances. Why, after all, should we take chances? The ‘safe’ and ‘known’ are serving us well. Why should we not continue to follow that path? In short, why should we put ourselves out on a limb?
The fact is taking risks is exactly what we should be doing. We should be taking risks and chances on a daily basis. This is how we grow, stretch ourselves and reach our potential. This is how we will achieve great things and fulfill our dreams. Just imagine, for a moment, where your life would be now, if everyone who cared for you had urged you to take risks instead of urging caution. Most of us would find that our lives would be very different. We would have had more experience. We might have shed our cautious nature. We could have discovered talents that we did not know we had. We would, in all probability, have less fear and feel more fulfilled. The truth is most of us wish that we had taken far more risks. Yet we worry.
The trouble is most of us tend to associate taking risks with danger. The same danger, we link to pain and to all sorts of negative associations. Yet nine times out of ten, the risk we are talking about taking have no dangerous consequences whatsoever. What, we might ask, is the worst that will happen? This applies to risks in all areas of our lives. It applies to extending the hand of friendship, of beginning a new class or asking for a raise in salary. It might apply to starting your own business, or simply choosing to follow your heart. It might apply to jumping out of an airplane with a parachute strapped to your back. If you think that is inherently dangerous, consider the risks involved in crossing the road!
Worrying thoughts start to whiz through our heads as soon as we begin to consider taking a risk. Incredibly, we allow these thoughts and our imaginations to put us off. Before we have even begun, we are struggling. We think it is far better not to take any chances. It is better to stay where we think we belong. The truth is, where you belong, is not a real place. People who did not believe you deserved to be anywhere else put you in this place. The intention was probably not malicious. We are all a product of our conditioning to some extent. It may have been advice given to you for fear of your safety. Yet, it was wrong. You are worth far more. Now you have the chance to prove it. We focus on the negative aspects of taking risks all the time. We have to change that way of thinking. It will not be easy. If you are right handed, imagine having to change to the left or vice a versa. It’s not impossible but it is hard to break the habit. Without thinking, your right hand automatically leaps in.
We need a new way of thinking. Try this definition of taking a risk. “A risk is something you would do in an instant, if you knew you would be successful or if you could get away with it.” That changes our perspective slightly because it negates the aspect of danger and brings the idea of the risk taking to something that is tantalizingly attractive. What this definition is telling us, is that the only thing preventing us from taking that risk, is the question of whether we could actually succeed. In our hearts, we know that we want to take this step. The old danger signals start leaping out at us but this time; do not allow them to take over. Evaluate them logically. Use your wisdom and your analysis to take them apart and set them to one side. Imagine those danger signals are like smoke detectors going off in the kitchen at home. If you hear a bleeping noise, what do you do? Do you run for the exit and dial the fire service from the neighbor’s house? A more likely and possibly reasonable scenario is that you investigate the cause first before panic sets in. You examine what the possible outcomes are.
In the case of the attractive risk, there are going to be gains. So, what then are the positive outcomes of taking this step? Seeing as risk taking is generally free of charge, your next step is to initiate action. You are now going to begin the process of removing the blocks. You are opening yourself up to change. You are, in effect, tying up the right hand. The left hand has no choice but to take over. There is a saying in life that someone who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing and is nothing (Leo Buscaglia, Ph.D, USC). Risks must be taken, they say, because the greatest hazard in life is to do nothing.
From today on, there are going to be new buzzwords in your vocabulary. They are going to be words like stretch, challenge, experiment and try. Risks are valuable things. You are even genetically programmed to take them. Human beings are at this stage in our evolution because of risks. It is just that we are so used to being told to stay on safe ground, that we have no idea what we are capable of. Risks are often thrilling because we want to try them. We want to know what it feels like. We want to be the person who says, “I took the risks and I reaped the rewards.” You might start by making a list of risks for you. These might be to do with relationships. They might be to do with your education or sports programs. They might be to do with your career choices. You owe it to yourself to ask what the worst possible thing that can happen would be. Is it something you would do in an instant if you thought you could? You need now begin the process.
Why not take a small risk each day? The more you do, the higher your confidence will soar. You will start to feel more and be more intuitive. You will achieve more and feel better about yourself. At the start of this speech, the safe place was a good position to be in. Why, we asked, would you put yourself out on a limb? The answer is, as Will Rogers said, “that is where the fruit is.”