Risk is something we all have to face in our lives, but appreciating its value and impact is not always easy.
I asked my social media friends whether they felt that risk is a good thing and 100% said yes. But I know from my clients that this doesn’t equate to 100%. Not all people take every risky action they could to achieve more and live a life that fulfills them.
For example, one client needed a coaching session to get them to take the jump into self-employment. They knew in their head that with over 20 years at the pinnacle of their career, they could do it. But they needed their coach to be the one that took the training wheels off and said “let’s do this!”.
We don’t all take the risks we should in life.
What makes a risk feel too big? What external impactors change our perception of risk and what’s the difference between good risk and bad? When should we be risk-averse? And how can we work out the difference and step up to take the risks that could change our lives (for the better)?
In this article, we will look at what calculated risk is and how you can learn to utilize it to be successful.
Table of Contents
What Is Calculated Risk?
Let me ask you:
Would you cross a 3 lane road of fast-moving traffic? The answer is likely to be “no” right?
What if I asked, would you cross 3 lanes of traffic at night? Still a “no”?
What about if I said, would you cross 3 lanes of traffic that had a pedestrian crossing?
See how the risk changes?
A calculated risk means that it is the same road with the same cars, but we’ve gone from a risk that we are unprepared to take to one that has an element of controlled and expected outcomes.
Would you quit your job right now and set up a business on the street corner in an hour’s time? No, of course not.
However, would you quit with a plan of action in a set period of time? Possibly.
The thing about calculated risk is that humans have to deal with their perceptions of reality, their emotions, feelings, and even beliefs to be able to take on risk.
That is why you may see 100% of people saying to take the risk. But if questioned further, there is probably at least one occasion for each person where they should have taken a risk but they didn’t.
I’ve seen people turn down contracts, delay traveling, delay saying “yes” to marriage, delay quitting their job, and even delay having their hair chopped off because they’ve not been able to calculate the risk with an outcome that they deem will be satisfactory.
Are All Risks Calculated?
In a speaking engagement, I once re-enacted the moment when the hero of the film is hanging on for dear life on the side of a mountain.
They can’t go down, and there’s no way out. The baddies are shooting at them from every angle and you may think “there is no way out of this!”. Then, miraculously, they let go, tumbling through the air, landing in a helicopter that flies into view being flown by the gorgeous and incredibly clever sidekick.
Risk is a bit like that.
The first time James Bond, Jack Reacher, or Lara Croft let go and went in a new direction, they were probably experiencing massive levels of fear. However, by overriding that fear, they were able to create a new definition of what is possible. It’s not called “mission: impossible” for nothing.
But how can we know when it’s a good idea to jump and when it’s going to lead to impending doom?
Interestingly, children seem to be risk blind for a while. It is adults that stand behind them shouting “don’t do that, you will fall and break your neck!” Do children stop doing stupid things? A and E departments would argue no.
But if we didn’t take on risks, we’d never learn to walk. The first time you pulled yourself up with your legs and stood there jumping up and down with a grin that says “Look what I can do” was sheer joy, not so much fun the next time you tried it and nearly removed your nose.
Most parents will have a story of how their child made their hearts leap with absolute terror as they did something stupid, but risk needs us to test its limits or we will all be stuck in baby gyms unable to reach the cool toys.
The reason some people achieve great things is that they are prepared to test their risk limitations.
How to Grow Your Risk Tolerance to Achieve More
Here, I aim to break down what you need to keep your eyes peeled, how to fix what you find, and what you need to do so that you can calculate risks and achieve more.
1. The RRIS Method
R – Research Everything You Aim to Achieve
But you should also know when to stop researching and get on with it. The amount of clients I’ve worked with who are so ready they could be the most intellectual person on the planet on their area of expertise is too high.
It’s easy to get in the trap of “doing just a bit more research” to get you out of taking action. So, do your research and use the other tips to help you to take action on your knowledge.
R – Rationalize Your Reality
I often hear clients say things that once said back to them, they quickly (and often embarrassingly) see that it’s just not true. They’ve twisted reality to enable them to stay safe.
Question what you believe to be true and the results you perceive to be impossible to avoid. Do you have evidence to prove your reality or are your thoughts just enabling your comfort zone to stay the same size?
Comfort zones are like big thick duvets – glorious in the middle of winter with the rain battering the windows and you are curled up safe and warm, but hideous in summer when the same duvet can wrap itself around you, becoming a sweat trap for your legs.
If you know that a comfort zone is twisting your reality, you can be either of the two versions of my clients:
- The one that likes to get so far out of their comfort zone that they can’t see it anymore. They do big actions putting into action the right support to achieve them. Learn and move on.
- The one who would literally feel stuck in fear if you offered them option 1. Therefore, they like to do things in small tiny morsel sized bites. If this is you, arrange to challenge your beliefs around anything in your life (not just related to the calculated risk to achieve more).
If you like structure, start the day in a way you wouldn’t. Get dressed before you brush your teeth, listen to a different radio station, and choose a different route to work.
Silly things that make you think about what you are doing can help you see that different is not bad. Different can be exciting, new, rewarding, and so much else. And tiny steps can be right for some.
I – Ideas Can Reduce or Inflame Our Capability for Calculated Risk
Before you do anything, somewhere in your head it was a thought. When you appreciate this, you can see that before you take on any risk, you have to have the ideas behind it to come out successful.
Ideas like this will be exciting, life-changing, and will work and make my career.
What phrases would you create to describe the result of your idea? If you notice they are negative, where’s your evidence?
Clients often tell me that I make them take risks. As a coach, that’s impossible. My job is to enable them to see what they really want and overcome the beliefs and obstacles towards it.
Once we are faced with our facts on our skills, past successes, and capabilities, we can’t help but ask “what is stopping you?”
By doing this, you are creating a solid foundation to get great results because your ideas are positive and not made up of illogical untruths like “it won’t work”, “what if I fail”, “it’s not done like that”, or “I will end up looking stupid”.
S – Success Over Scares
It is a calculated risk and therefore, something that is worth investing in and going for when our level of fear is reduced and our belief about success is raised. Where do you stand on this scale?
Scared! vs Success!
Now add in the following words to the above scale. Where would they sit?
- Staying safe
- Low self-esteem
- Stopping myself
Can you see how there is a big gap between scared and success? And between the two there will always be elements of feeling safe or stuck and worrying about whether you can do it or not.
The important thing to remember is that you will never completely bridge the gap between being scared and being successful. A little fear is good for you.
I’ve never had a speaking engagement where I don’t feel a little nervous. Nine years ago, that wasn’t nervousness – that was absolute terror. And I once read, “it’s not stage fright, it’s performance energy.”
What description would you like to use do describe your calculated risk? If you were to say it out loud, would it be a positive sentence or one that reduces you to fear?
Your words and finding your place on the scared to success scale could define your likelihood of success.
2. The Know-It Kit
Taking the risk is scary, from the client that wanted to confront their boss for 10 years and make a suggestion that they knew flew in the opposite opinion of their boss, to the singer who is too scared to stand in front of an audience. The important thing is to remember that you are in control of the risks you take and the know-it kit can help.
Know the Times You’ve Been Successful
Many clients will tell me that their fear is overriding their beliefs about what can be achieved. At times like that, it’s no good to think of something different and expect it to magically make it seem easy.
Get the facts on your side. As much as your heart will fill your head with negativity, hanging on to the facts of what you’ve already done in life is something you can’t argue with.
Know the Skills You Have
As I’ve said above, when we take on risk, we need to know that we’ve got what we need to get the results we want.
Know That Mistakes Are Good
No exceptional rise to success didn’t have setbacks. No great inventions didn’t have failures (with many of those becoming inventions in their own right).
Knowing that mistakes are an opportunity to learn can ensure that you take action even when the fear is raising its ugly head.
International Vocal Coach Gemma Milburne shared,
“I think many of the greatest singers are the most willing to take risks. You have to risk going out of tune, making mistakes, sounding awful, in order to get REALLY good at singing. As a vocal coach, a lot of what I’m doing is helping singers to face that ‘mental’ risk that’s in a person’s head.”
Know the People You Can Trust
When everything is in place, you’ve got the evidence, you’ve done your research, you are accountable, focused and ready for action, sometimes just a chat with the right person can be all you need.
Who is in your Know-It Kit? You can trust them to say what you need them to say. And not just “you will be great dear, go for it.” Be with the right people who will challenge, empower, and ensure you’re ready in every capacity to make it happen.
Before a petrified public speaker has taken to the stage or before a client has walked into a room to go for their big dream, I’m often the one they text as they walk in for that last-minute reminder that they’ve got this.
Know the Way You Have to Feel
Lastly, don’t forget that even with the right words from the right people, it is still down to you.
Sometimes, cultural beliefs and feelings can slip into our mindset. Other people in the same industry can tell us “it’s never been done like that,” and it can knock our focus and derail our thoughts.
How do you need to feel to get the results you want? If I told a person from 200 years ago that they could fly anywhere on this planet on the same day, I’d likely have been locked up.
Our beliefs change with time and experience. Do you want to be the person that creates the thoughts and beliefs of the future? Or wait for someone else to take the risk (and the glory!) and leave you wishing “I wish I’d taken that risk”?
Looking back to myself years ago, Mrs. Nervous Wreck lacking in confidence. . .
She looked up at the chandelier that was taller than her house and tried to focus her thoughts. No amount of “thinking positively” was working and she just wanted her spleen to burst so she could end up in hospital safely away from this extravagant room and all these people.
How could she ever thought it would be clever to speak to a room full of her peers?
Less than 5 months prior to this moment, she’d stood in front of just 25 business owners and faffed and fumbled through her words, feeling like a complete fake, wishing to never see any of these people ever again.
Heck, even a career in a local fast food place would be better! She’d made a memorable impression but for all the wrong reasons, and one of the audience had taken great delight in reminding her of her epic fail, so what had driven her to do it again?
That was me, but for some reason, I’d decided to take the risk and speak on another stage in front of more people.
In many ways, I was hardly recognizable from 9 years ago to today when I’m described as “one of the best speakers I’ve ever heard” and “changed my life in one hour.”
Clearly, my ability and attitude to speaking to an audience changed. But what else?
It was how I faced my fear and how I grew my risk tolerance to achieve more.
By taking my advice on how to take calculated risks, you will gradually find yourself becoming braver and embracing more opportunities. You’ve got this!
More Tips about Fighting Fears
- 6 Ways to Be a Successful Risk Taker and Take More Chances
- 10 Ways To Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone And Overcome Your Fear
- How to Overcome Fear and Realize Your Potential (The Ultimate Guide)
Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com