“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” –Henry David Thoreau
At a recent conference, I heard a speaker talk about taking intelligent risks. While themed more for taking calculated risks on the job, the message was clear and applicable to any decision being made….if your passion is greater than your fear you have the courage to take a risk. After the conference I took some time to reflect on the meaning of that simple statement and how it has impacted me throughout my recent past. I realized two things: The outcome of difficult decisions stays with you and the more you ‘practice’ dealing with apprehension or fear the better you get.
When you are faced with a choice that lies at the edge of or just beyond your comfort zone, it is only natural to experience some degree of fear, and for me those decisions have led to some of my greatest personal gains and also regrets. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a life-changing decision, but for me even something as simple as deciding to go to a Muay Thai Boxing class. A friend of mine had been trying to get me to go to a Mixed Martial Arts class with him for over a year and a half and I kept finding excuses not to go. I let the fear of embarrassing myself (or getting my butt kicked!) stop me from going even though I wanted to. A couple of months ago I finally went for it and found it to be an amazing workout, and instantly regretting having wasted a year being fearful.
When making a decision that takes you to the outskirts of your comfort zone, it’s helpful to realize that something deep inside brought you there and the more ‘practice’ you have dealing with fear the better you become at viewing potential risk. Trying Muay Thai eased my fear of embarrassment in terms of exercise and has given me the confidence to try things I wouldn’t have before, like interval training and (much to the delight of my wife) yoga. That view of risk transcended just exercise and also contributed to a recent decision to begin a new career, one way outside of my comfort zone.
Just a quick example on different perspectives on risk: How many of you would jump off of a 120ft cliff into water? If you were to be offered $1,000 to do it? If you could save the life of a loved one?
Obviously the example is unrealistic and not a situation one would readily find themselves, however the point is the same. I bet more people would jump if offered money than without and even more would jump to save a loved one. The point being the act of jumping and perceived risk of injuring one self hasn’t changed. The only thing that changed is the desire to overcome that risk. The more you overcome smaller risks the more comfortable you become viewing them and the easier it becomes to take on larger challenges.