Six Rules to Improve Risk-taking

In my last post, Risk-Taking, I talked about why risk-aversion can be detrimental to realizing our potential, but I didn’t give much insight into strategies to improve our view of or assessment of risks. I aim to correct that with this one and these 6 rules:

  1. Know what you want – What is your purpose for taking the risk? Are you trying to garner attention for yourself or a business? Are you trying to impress someone? Are you just doing it because it seems challenging or fun? Knowing why you are taking the risk will help you determine whether or not it is worth taking.
  2. Don’t overthink it – If you have an idea, act on it. Waiting too long is only good for three things: getting inside your own head, imagining everything that could go wrong, and watching someone else do exactly what you were planning on and succeeding. Don’t be the person who ends the day with regrets because you waited when you should have acted.
  3. Don’t underthink it – You should act quickly, but you should also have a plan. When I say plan, I don’t mean an intricate plot to kidnap the President and ransom him for jewels and a real, live velociraptor. Rather you should think over some basic strategies that will give your idea or encounter better odds of success. For example, you’re out in a new town and your goal is to meet people and broaden your social circle. Before going over to a group you should remind yourself to smile, make eye contact, and ask about others more than you talk about yourself. These are all good social practices that will give you better odds of making a good impression.
  4. Be Realistic – Setting realistic goals is absolutely key to gaining the confidence required to be a go-getter and risk-taker. In the previous scenario I used going up to a group in a social environment to demonstrate planning. Using the same example, a realistic goal would be to break the ice with at least 3 different groups of people that night. It doesn’t matter what happens as long as you approach three groups you have met your goal. How would that make you feel if you set out with a mission to make yourself better and accomplished it? I’m willing to bet you’d feel pretty good about yourself.  And that feeling would only increase as you go beyond your goal and talk to 4, 5, and 6 groups of people. If you head into that same situation imagining that you are going to be the center of attention and life of the party, you are going to feel like a failure if you don’t end the night popping champagne bottles in a limosine. That is going to break your confidence, not build it. Keep your goals small and realistic and…
  5. Focus on the process, not the results – Too many of us take risks for the wrong reasons. We do things like quit our jobs and start a business because we see guys like Mark Zuckerberg become billionaires by the time they are 31 years old. This is the complete wrong attitude to have because we are again setting lofty goals right off the bat. All that this serves to do is demoralize us when we are struggling to pay rent two months later. The passion and vision that we started out with is what will see us through such trying times and ultimately make us successful. We lose sight of that when we focus on the results that we did not attain, and when we think like this and take foolish risks without any preparation we are setting ourselves up for failure.
  6. Don’t take yourself too seriously – This is a big one. Things are risky for a reason and when you take a risk you aren’t always going to succeed. Don’t be too hard on yourself when you fail. It’s not the end of the world and the odds were likely against you to begin with. Instead of being critical of yourself, step back and assess the risk and how you approached it. Was it realistic or did you stand a snowflakes chance in hell? Did you have a plan, or did you tell someone to hold your beer and jump right in? What did you learn, and how will you approach the same problem next time around? These are the questions that you should be spending your mental energy on and finding the answers will make you a better, more confident person.

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