Read the title of this article again and consider your gut reaction to the word “Risk”. If I told you that I’m a risk-taker, would you consider that to be a good thing or a bad thing? The truth is that, depending on the subject, being willing to take risks can be perceived as a positive or a negative attribute. If I said I was going to jump out of an aeroplane without a parachute, at the risk of my life, many would consider that to a very bad risk. But if I said I was going to send my manuscript to a publisher at the risk of being rejected, many would consider that to be a risk well worth taking. In fact, in the latter scenario, most would consider that NOT taking the risk is a bad thing.
Often, if we’re afraid to take risks, our decisions regarding situations that carry an element of danger are not made consciously. Our subconscious can take over and hold us back because, on some level, we’re afraid of what the results might be. Maybe we’re afraid of failure. Maybe we’re afraid of humiliation. Maybe we’re afraid of looking silly.
Apply this to a business setting for a moment. Some people are extremely comfortable with the planning phase, the preparation phase, the thinking-about-it phase or talking-about-it phase, but they never really just go out there and do it because they’re afraid of making the mistakes. They’re afraid of the risks that they’re going to be facing and are, in effect, saying to themselves, ‘Oh my gosh, what if this doesn’t work? Look at all the different people that are going to see me. They’re going to look down on me. They’re going to think I’m stupid. They’re going to look at me as a failure.’
If any of this sounds familiar, take heart. Most of the time this kind of self-limiting attitude is learned behaviour that, with a little effort, can be unlearned. It could be that avoiding risk is something you learned at from school. It’s not that schooling is bad but sometimes the way we learn things can have a very negative impact on our subconscious and our subsequent activities, behaviors, thoughts and feelings. A very distinguished professor named Arthur Combs from Northern California University once said: “Our entire educational system is built on right answers which produces a great fear of making mistakes and stifles creativity.”
When success and failure is measured purely by right or wrong answers, then you’re being taught to avoid wrong answers at all costs. Failure in a test at school can lead to humiliation, angry teachers, disappointed parents, and so on. Scary stuff, right? But in business, failure can be a learning experience that guides you to a successful business.
The important question here is, could there be something you have subconsciously learned that is holding you back from taking the proactive type of risks that you need to take to succeed in your business or other areas of your life? To unlearn the equation that failure = bad, consider three questions.
1: What is your reward for taking a risk?
Sometimes it’s easy to reward ourselves if we take a risk and gain some measure of success. But what if you don’t succeed? What do you learn from that and how do you learn from that defeat so that, when you take the risk, it places you a step closer to overall success in your business?
If you can learn to find the positives from success and failure than you’ll gradually remove the barriers to risk taking. Eventually, you’ll stop seeing failures and, instead, simply see varying degrees of success.
2: What is your punishment for taking a risk?
Are there people in your life that punish you verbally or physically? Maybe you’re looked down upon. Maybe there are certain things that make you feel so down about yourself for taking a risk that you stop being willing to take the risk in the first place.
It could even be that you punish yourself? Do you punish yourself mentally for taking risks, especially if it doesn’t end up working out? When you merely think about taking a risk, do you punish yourself by hammering your self-esteem, hammering your self-image and using a lot of negative self-talk to pretty much grind yourself into the ground?
Those are hard questions but if you can bring yourself to ask them and then answer them honestly, you can identify the things in your life that need adjusting or even removing.
3: What’s your reward for not taking a risk?
This is perhaps the most important question of all. How do you make it okay for yourself to not take the risk? How do you make it okay for yourself to avoid exposure to the elements that you need to progress and move to that next level in your life? How are you making it okay to stay where you are, in a comfort zone? You may not even be doing these things consciously but you need to expose them so you can start to deal with it.
It’s only through risks that we can allow ourselves to expand and experience some of the bigger and greater things in life that we have the right to experience. These things are not just going to be handed to us. In life and in business, we have to go out there and get them. Every company that’s great today was, at some point in the past, a risk. And (really thing about this) the chances are good that it remains at risk.
Risk is something that we shouldn’t always be trying to avoid. Obviously there’s good risk and there’s bad risk; I’m not saying that you should run across the street in fast moving traffic. I’m talking about the kind of risk that’s necessary, that we all have to embrace if we want to expand ourselves and our business.
Face Your Fears
As human beings, fears are something we’re good at ignoring; we push them into our subconscious and allow them to manipulate our actions. It’s only by bringing those fears into our conscious that we can analyze them and decide whether or not they’re rational.
Taking Risks – Questions to Consider
To explore risk as it applies to your particular situation, consider the following questions. Writing the answers out will help you to get to grips with your personal challenges so grab a notepad and pen.
1. What past experiences have you had that might have shaped the way you think about risk (personal experiences, things you have heard from others, etc…)?
2. Are there any beliefs you may have subconsciously learned that are holding you back from taking proactive risks? What are these beliefs?
3. What is your reward system? How do you reward yourself for taking risks? If you don’t already reward yourself, what are some ways that you could do so in the future?
4. Do you have any regrets over past risks you could have taken but were too scared to take at the time? What were the main things holding you back from taking those risks?
5. What is your punishment for taking a risk? Are there people in your life that punish you? Do you feel like you punish yourself for taking risks or do you feel guilty when you think about taking risks?
6. Describe an instance when you considered taking a risk and then have used negativity to bring yourself down and talk yourself out of taking the risk.
7. What is your reward for not taking a risk? In what ways do you make it okay for you not to take risks? In what ways do you tell yourself its okay to just stay where you are?
8. Describe the negative consequences for you of not taking risks. In what ways are risks a necessity if you want to progress and move to the next level in your life and in your business?
9. Name two risks you have been thinking about that you really want to take.
10. What are the potential positive outcomes of taking the risks? (Remember, even if they do not turn out as planned, you can still have positive outcomes such as gaining experience, learning a new skill, meeting new people, learning how you can do better next time, etc…) In what ways will you reward yourself for going ahead and taking these risks?
By Stephen Pierce
This article was originally featured in Mike Filsaime’s print newsletter, “MDC Monthly.” You can get a free trial copy shipped to your door by clicking here.
Stephen Pierce is an Internet multi-millionaire and has been featured on TV stations, FOX, ABC, CBS, NBC, Bloomberg, and many more. He is known as one of the powerhouses of the Internet and teaches others to replicate his success. Follow Stephen at www.facebook.com/StephenPierceInc.