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Last Updated on June 4, 2020

How to Take Calculated Risk to Achieve Success

How to Take Calculated Risk to Achieve Success

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.

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.

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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.

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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
  • Stuck
  • 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.

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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.

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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”?

Final Thoughts

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

Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

More by this author

Mandie Holgate

Coach, International BEST Selling Author, Speaker & Blogger helping thousands around the world.

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Last Updated on September 30, 2020

Why Intrinsic Motivation Is So Powerful (And How to Find It)

Why Intrinsic Motivation Is So Powerful (And How to Find It)

Motivation is one of the main reasons we do things — take an action, go to work (and sometimes overwork ourselves), create goals, exercise our willpower. There are two main, universally agreed upon types of motivation — intrinsic motivation (also known as internal motivation) and extrinsic motivation (external motivation).

The intrinsic kind is, by inference, when you do something because it’s internally fulfilling, interesting or enjoyable — without an expectation of a reward or recognition from others. Extrinsic motivation is driven by exactly the opposite — externalities, such as the promise of more money, a good grade, positive feedback, or a promotion.

And of course, we all know about the big debate about money. It’s surely an external driver, but is it possible that it can sometimes make us enjoy what we do more? A meta-analysis that reviewed 120 years of research found a weak link between job satisfaction and money[1].

And what’s more — there is some evidence to suggest that more money can actually have an adverse effect on your intrinsic motivation.

Regardless of its type, motivation is still important to get you moving, to improve, excel, and put that extra effort when you feel like you don’t have a single drop of energy left to keep going.

So, let’s see some of the best things you can do to keep the fire going, even when you’d rather just indulge in pleasant idleness.

Why Intrinsic Motivation Tops Extrinsic Motivation

“To be motivated means to be moved to do something.”[2]

Generally speaking, we all need motivation.

An avalanche of research, though, shows that when it comes to finding the lasting drive to “do something,” internal incentives are much more powerful than extrinsic rewards.

Why? It’s simple.

There is a great difference when you engage in something because “I want to,” as opposed to “I must.” Just think about the most obvious example there is: work.

If you go to work every day, dragging your feet and dreading the day ahead of you, how much enjoyment will you get from your job? What about productivity and results? Quality of work?

Yep, that’s right, you definitely won’t be topping the Employee of the Month list anytime soon.

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The thing with external motivation is that it doesn’t last. It’s susceptible to something psychologists call Hedonic Adaptation[3]. It’s a fancy way of saying that external rewards are not a sustainable source of happiness and satisfaction.

When you put in 100-hour weeks in order to get promoted, and you finally are, how long does your “high” last? The walking-on-a-cloud feelings wear off quickly, research tells us, making you want more. Therefore, you are stuck on a never-ending “hedonic treadmill,” i.e. you can progressively only become motivated by bigger and shinier things, just to find out that they don’t bring you the satisfaction you hoped for, when you finally get them.

Or, as the journalist and author Oliver Burkeman wonderfully puts it[4]:

“Write every day” won’t work unless you want to write. And no exercise regime will last long if you don’t at least slightly enjoy what you’re doing.

If you want to find out more about the different types of motivation, take a look at this article: 9 Types of Motivation That Make It Possible to Reach Your Dreams

Benefits of Intrinsic Motivation

If you are still unconvinced that doing things solely for kudos and brownie points is not going to keep you going forever, nor make you like what you do, here is some additional proof:

Studies tell us that intrinsic motivation is a generally stronger predictor of job performance over the long run than extrinsic motivation[5].

One reason is that when we are internally driven to do something, we do it simply for the enjoyment of the activity. So, we keep going, day in and out, because we feel inspired, driven, happy, and satisfied with ourselves.

Another reason has to do with the fact that increasing intrinsic motivation is intertwined with things such as higher purpose, contributing to a cause, or doing things for the sake of something bigger than ourselves or our own benefit. A famous study done by the organizational psychologist Adam Grant is case in point[6].

By showing university fundraisers how the money donated by alumni can help financially struggling students to graduate from college, their productivity increased by 400% a week! The callers also showed an average increase of 142% in time spent on the phone and 171% increase in money raised.

Internal motivation has been found to be very helpful when it comes to academia, too. Research confirms that the use of external motivators, such as praise, undermine students’ internal motivation, and, in the long-run, it results in “slower acquisition of skills and more errors in the learning process.”[7]

In contrast, when children are internally driven, they are more involved in the task at hand, enjoy it more, and intentionally seek out challenges.

Therefore, all the research seems to allude to one major revelation: intrinsic motivation is a must-have if you want to save yourself the drudgery we all sometimes feel when contemplating the things we should do or must do.

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6 Ways to Enhance Your Intrinsic Motivation

So, how does one get more of the good stuff — that is, how do you become internally motivated?

There are many things you can do to become more driven. Here are the ones that top the list.

1. Self-Efficacy

The theory of self-efficacy was developed by the American-Canadian psychologist Albert Bandura in 1982[8]. Efficacy is our own belief in whether we can achieve the goals we set for ourselves. In other words, it’s whether we think we “got what it takes” to be successful at what we do[9].

Find intrinsic motivation with self-efficacy.

    It’s not hard to see the link of self-efficacy to higher self-esteem, better performance, and, of course, enhanced motivation. People with high self-efficacy are more likely to put extra effort in what they do, to self-set more challenging goals, and be more driven to improve their skills[10].

    Therefore, the belief that we can accomplish something serves as a self-fulfilling prophecy — it motivates us to try harder to prove to ourselves that we can do it.

    You can learn more about self-efficacy in this article: What Is Self Efficacy and How to Improve Yours

    2. Link Your Actions to a Greater Purpose

    Finding your “why” in life is incredibly important. This means that you need to be clear with yourself on why you do what you do and what drives you. What is intrinsically rewarding for you? 

    And no matter how mundane a task may be, it can always be linked to something bigger and better. Psychologists call this “reframing your narrative.”

    Remember the famous story of John F. Kennedy visiting NASA in 1961? As it goes, he met a janitor there and asked him what he did at NASA. The answer was:

    “I’m helping to put a man on the Moon.”

    Inspirational, isn’t it?

    Re-phrasing how your actions can help others and leave a mark in the universe can be a powerful driver and a meaning-creator.

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    3. Volunteer

    Volunteering is a great way to give back to the world. It can also help boost your internal motivation by making you feel important in supporting the less fortunate, learning new skills, feeling good about yourself, or linking to some of your inner values, such as kindness and humanitarianism[11].

    When you remove any external reward expectations and do something for the pure joy and fulfilment of improving others’ lives, then you are truly intrinsically motivated.

    4. Don’t Wait Until You “Feel Like It” to Do Something

    A great piece in the Harvard Business Review points out that when we say things as “I can’t make myself go to the gym” or “I can’t get up early,” what we actually mean is that we don’t feel like it[12]. There is nothing that psychically prevents us from doing those things, apart from our laziness.

    But here’s the thing: You don’t have to “feel like it” in order to take action.

    Sometimes, it so happens that you may not want to do something in the beginning, but once you start, you get into the flow and find your intrinsic motivation.

    For instance, you don’t feel like going to the gym after a long day at work. Rather than debating in your head for hours “for and against” it, just go. Tell yourself that you will think about it later. Once in the gym, surrounded by similar souls, you suddenly won’t fee that tired or uninspired.

    Another way to overcome procrastination is to create routines and follow them. Once the habit sets in, suddenly getting up at 6 am for work or writing for an hour every day won’t be so dreadful.

    5. Self-Determination, or the CAR Model (As I Call It)

    The Self-Determination theory was created by two professors of psychology from the University of Rochester in the mid-80s—Richard Ryan and Edward Deci[13]. The theory is one of the most popular ones in the field of motivation[14]. It focuses on the different drivers behind our behavior—i.e. the intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.

    There are three main needs, the theory further states, that can help us meet our need for growth. These are also the things which Profs. Deci and Ryan believed to be the main ways to enhance our intrinsic motivation—Competence, Autonomy, and Relatedness (CAR).

    If our jobs allow us to learn and grow, and if we have enough autonomy to do things our way and be creative, then we will be more driven to give our best, and our performance will soar. In addition, as humans are social beings, we also need to feel connected to others and respected.

    All of these sources of intrinsic motivation, separately and in combination, can become powerful instigators to keep us thriving, even when we feel uninspired and unmotivated .

    6. Tap Into a Deeper Reason

    Some interesting research done in 2016 sought answers to how high-performing employees remain driven when their company can’t or won’t engage in ways to motivate them—intrinsically or extrinsically[15].

    The study tracked workers in a Mexican factory, where they did exactly the same tasks every day, with virtually zero chances for learning new skills, developing professionally, or being promoted. Everyone was paid the same, regardless of performance. So there was no extrinsic motivation at all, other than keeping one’s job.

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    A third kind of motivation was then discovered, which scientists called “family motivation.” Workers who agreed more with statements such as “I care about supporting my family” or “It is important for me to do good for my family” were more energized and performed better, although they didn’t have any additional external or internal incentive to do so.

    The great thing about this kind of driver is that it’s independent of the company one works for or the situation. It taps into something even deeper—if you don’t want to do something for your own sake, then do it for the people you care for.

    And this is a powerful motive, as many can probably attest to this.

    Final Thoughts

    Frederick Herzberg, the American psychologist who developed what’s perhaps still today the most famous theory of motivation, in his renowned article from 1968 (which sold a modest 1.2 million reprints and it the most requested article from Harvard Business Review One More Time, How Do You Motivate Employees? wrote:[16]

    “If I kick my dog, he will move. And when I want him to move again, what must I do? I must kick him again. Similarly, I can charge a person’s battery, and then recharge it, and recharge it again. But it is only when one has a generator of one’s own that we can talk about motivation. One then needs no outside stimulation. One wants to do it.”

    Herzberg further explains that the so-called “hygiene factors” (salary, job security, benefits, vacation time, work conditions) don’t lead to fulfillment, nor motivation. What does, though, are the “motivators”—challenging work, opportunities for growth, achievement, greater responsibility, recognition, the work itself.

    Herzberg realized it long ago…intrinsic motivation tips the scales when it comes to finding long-term happiness and satisfaction in everything we do, and to improving our overall well-being.

    In the end, the next time when you need to give yourself a bit of a kick to get something done, remember to link it to a goal bigger than yourself, and preferably one that has non-material benefit.

    And no, don’t say that you tried but it’s just impossible to find internal motivation. Remember the janitor at NASA?

    Because once you find your internal generator, you will be truly unstoppable.

    More Tips to Boost Motivation

    Featured photo credit: Juan Ramos via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Harvard Business Review: Does Money Really Affect Motivation? A Review of the Research
    [2] Contemporary Educational Psychology: Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions
    [3] Scientific American: The Science of Lasting Happiness
    [4] The Guardian: Is the secret of productivity really just doing what you enjoy?
    [5] European Journal of Business and Management: Impact of Employee Motivation on Employee Performance
    [6] Adam Grant : Impact and the Art of Motivation Maintenance: The Effects of Contact With Beneficiaries on Persistence Behavior
    [7] Grand Valley State University: The Effect of Rewards and Motivation on Student Achievement
    [8] Encyclopedia Britannica: Albert Bandura
    [9] Pinterest: Self-Efficacy Theory
    [10] Educational Psychologist: Goal Setting and Self-Efficacy During Self-Regulated Learning
    [11] University of Minnesota: The Motivations to Volunteer: Theoretical and Practical Considerations
    [12] Harvard Business Review: How to Make Yourself Work When You Just Don’t Want To
    [13] Richard Ryan and Edward Deci: Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions
    [14] Richard Ryan and Edward Deci: Self-Determination Theory and the Facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development, and Well-Being
    [15] Nick Tasler: How some people stay motivated and energized at work—even when they don’t love their jobs
    [16] Harvard Business Review: One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees?

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