Are You Taking Risks to Success?

The mind is a powerful tool. It can calculate risks and make judgement calls in nano seconds. The mind can also limit our abilities perhaps based on past experiences, especially when mental or physical pain is involved.

All my life I have been a safe player, you won't find me jumping out of the airplane or playing $100 slots. My safe choices have given me great opportunities and life experiences. The riskiest thing I have ever done was backpacking across Europe and Egypt by myself in my early twenties. I went alone out of necessity; none of my friends were able to go and, well, I wanted to travel and see the world. Even so, every step of the way was calculated and planned. There were some gritty and scary experiences but I survived it.

Getting married was planned but not the when or to whom. Fortunately, I met my soul mate and we married just before I turned thirty. I guess you could say how I meet Rick was a little risky. I placed an online ad on AOL's Love Connection, well before online dating became mainstream. I remember friends saying I was crazy to meet a man I did not know, especially from the Internet! After deleting a few ads from weirdos, Rick's reply intrigued me enough to want to learn more about him. I am so glad I took that risk.

There have been other occasions in my life where I have been a little dare devilish: zip lining through the jungle with friends, quitting corporate America to start my own company, photographing fires, and, most recently, photographing wildlife in their natural habitat. And for the most part these are controlled situations and I consider these activities as adventurous and not so much as risky.

Recently, Rick and I rafted down the Merced River in Yosemite National Park. I was worried about strong currents and white water because I was not familiar with this river and had never done any white water rafting. Rick assured me this wasn't one of those types of trips. Yet at the first sight of rough water, my mind visualized us going over the "rapids" and our raft being catapulted over landing upside down, leaving me to swim for the shore in the frigid water. My body tensed up as we approached the "rapid" and I leaked out a little "eeek" as the raft made its way over the rocks... quite uneventfully.

"Okay," I thought. "That wasn't bad."

Another rough spot came up and this time I wanted to assist Rick so I paddled with all my might. Again, nothing came of the rough spot except the boat drifted sideways which meant we were navigating the river backwards. This startled me at first. My mind knew this movement was not natural but as soon as I saw the grand visual in front of me, all I thought of was the beauty that had been behind me that I had been missing.

I allowed myself to not worry about "driving the ship;" Rick had it covered. Instead, I focused on the grandeur of the half dome and the incredible, larger than life view of the monoliths before me. It was a quiet, pleasant ride. Amid my mental "awws" and "wows" of the grand visuals before me, I contemplated about taking risks.

I wanted to go zip-lining again without pure terror running through my veins. To this day, I remember the extreme fear of hanging from those tiny cables 60 feet above the jungle floor and not having the option to "get off this ride." Through encouragement of my friends and the staff, I began to trust that I wasn't going to die or break my back. It wasn't until the last leg of the ride that I actually had fun. And I wanted to do it again.
Just like I want to try white water rafting. I want to try rappelling. I want to walk on a glacier and a volcano. I want to go on a helicopter ride.

What do I have to fear? Bodily injury? Sure. Death? Possibly. But if I plan accordingly as I have my entire life, the risks should be minimal. Having my husband or best friend next to me will help keep the risks down as well as using recommended recreational vendors and guides for these great adventures.

If I start slowly by rafting down a river that is a little bumpy or climbing an indoor wall, I can build the skills I need and change my fear to confidence. The mind is a powerful tool and we can change our mindset.

So how do we decide if a goal is too risky?
  • List your goal and the steps needed to complete it. 
  • Identify what will be affected when you take on the goal, such as your reputation, family life, financial stability, success, community recognition, or any other Risk Result. 
  • Weigh each Risk Result on a scale from 1 to 5, using 1 as little risk and 5 as the highest. 
  • Add the scores and divide by the total number of Risk Results. 
  • A rating of 1 or 2 is worth starting your goal.
Share with us what you decide to do and why it is worth taking the risk!

Alicia White, CEO of Back of the Room Productions™, helps speakers, coaches, authors, business experts and thought leaders monetize their message every time they speak. From speaker sheets to back of the room products, clients receive high-level graphic design and expert branding strategy on how to use their marketing products. Copyright 2013.