A Guide To Successful Risk Taking

If you want something you’ve never had, you’ve got to do something you’ve never done.

Greater SuccessEverything you want in life requires a risk. There are no exceptions. Whether it’s a healthier body, a bigger paycheck, a better career, or a stronger marriage, you can’t get those things by just hoping they’ll happen. You have to DO something. You have to take a RISK.

If you want friends, for example, you’ve got to take the risk of introducing yourself, starting conversations, and showing interest in others. Of course, the people you choose might not be interested in you. That’s the risk. But without taking the risk, you’re left alone.

The same is true at work. If you want a promotion, for example, if you want a position of more responsibility, challenge and money, you’ll have to take the risk of doing more than what you’re being paid to do. Of course, management may not notice and may not reward all your extra effort, and you may upset your colleagues who are doing just enough to get by. That’s life.

Not every risk pays off. But taking intelligent, constructive risks will work much more often than sitting around waiting for things to happen. So what is a constructive risk?

1. Risk involves new behavior.

I remember Tom who came to me for counseling. Tom said, “I’m terribly lonely. I’ve never had a date with a woman in my whole life. Loneliness is the worst way to live, and it’s the only way I know how to live.” With tears streaming down his cheeks, he asked, “Can you please help me?”

I asked him what he had been doing about his problem, and he talked about various on-line and in-person dating services he had joined. He talked about a long list of women that interested him but said, “I’m afraid to contact any of them. I have no self-confidence. What if they say ‘no’ if I ever ask them out?”

In Tom’s case, he had not learned the new behavior that was required. He needed to know how to communicate with women and how to deal with the occasional rejection he would receive. Each of those behaviors was a risk because they required skills that he had not yet learned.

Are you trying to change things in your organization? Probably so. That seems to be the case every place I go to speak. The problem is … in many organizations, the leaders simply announce the change and expect it to happen. They don’t give their people the skills they need to be successful at the change.

No wonder their people fight change. No one wants to be a loser. And without the proper training, your people are going to struggle with change way more than they have to. That’s why my program on “The Human Side of Change: How to Go From Chaos to Control” has become so popular. People get the skills they need to get the results they want. You can read about it by going to https://www.drzimmerman.com/programs/seminars/the-change-payoff.

After attending the program, Jennifer Homan, the Office Coordinator at Miracle Ear, said, “I learned more about myself, my coworkers and my family life in the time I spent with Dr. Zimmerman than I have in the past thirty years. With the change skills you gave us, I left the program as a more patient person as well as being a better communicator, a better employee, a better friend, and a better mother.”

2. Risk involves the potential of loss.

You could get hurt. You could lose something. A child who touches his mother’s expensive vase could get his hand slapped, especially if he had been forewarned not to touch it. The slap could hurt. An employee could lose his job after pointing out how wrong the boss was, particularly if he did in the wrong way, at the wrong time, or in wrong setting … all change management skills that he may have never learned.

If you’re engaged in a behavior that is a sure thing, where there is no chance of losing anything, it’s not a risk. That’s clear enough. But you also know that risks are risky. That’s also clear enough.

So your challenge is to take risks … if you want to get ahead in life … at the same time you minimize your potential losses when you take those risks. That’s possible.

I’ve discovered a little secret. Just ask yourself four questions about your potential risk … BEFORE you take the risk. Ask yourself:
*Is it necessary?
*Will it work?
*Is it cost effective (financially, emotionally, relationally, occupationally)?
*Is it worth it?

If you get two or more “yes” answers to those questions, your chances of a successful outcome are very good.

3. Risk involves the possibility of gain.

In fact every risk is part danger and part opportunity. Saying what you really think is sometimes dangerous, but it is an opportunity to be close to and honest with another person. Getting 360 degree feedback on the job is dangerous because you may not like what you hear. But it’s also an opportunity to get better at what you do.

Disagreeing with your spouse can be dangerous; it may lead to a fight. But it’s also an opportunity for each of you to see things in a different light. Trying something you’ve never done before could be dangerous, but it’s also an opportunity to discover new talents.

Perhaps you remember the old movie “Funny Girl” with Barbara Streisand playing the role of Fanny Bryce. Fanny got a job as a chorus girl in the Ziegfield Follies, in particular, dancing in line on roller skates. While everyone else performed beautifully, all in sync, Fanny looked horrible, stumbling and gyrating on her roller skates. Mr. Ziegfield hollered at her and said, “I thought you said you could roller skate?” Fanny simply replied, “I never knew I couldn’t”.

For Fanny, trying something new, such as roller skating was dangerous; she could make a fool of herself. But it was also an opportunity for her to discover her real talent, which happened to be singing instead of skating.

You need to do the same thing. Recognize the danger and the opportunity in the risks you face. If you only look at one side of the situation, your emotional intelligence is low and your change success rate will be dismal. But if you look at both the danger and the opportunity in your risks … and if you learn how to assess which is in greater supply … you will win.

Action:  Where in your life do you need to increase your risk taking?  How will you do it?  And when will you start?