“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky
Whether you’re a high-level manager, a small business owner, or a creative professional, it’s important to take risks throughout your career in order to grow.
The ability to put yourself out there and risk heartache and failure is critical for developing your character, your resilience, and talent.
While risk-taking is usually associated with adventurous types or the Richard Bransons of the world, you don’t have to be a wealthy CEO or bungee-jumping enthusiast to take more risks and benefit from them.
In fact, despite the impulsive, daredevil image that risk-takers may conjure, there is actually a lot of thoughtful planning and preparation that goes into taking a risk.
If you’re someone who prefers to stay in their comfort zone or if you’re curious about how to take smarter risks, here’s why it helps to take more risks in your professional life.
Why it’s important to take risks
Stretch yourself. If you feel stuck at your current job, taking risks can help you get out of a professional rut. Whether it’s speaking up at meetings or taking on a project that’s above your current role, professional risk-taking can jumpstart your career development and create momentum.
Defy your limits. If you have a tendency to dismiss big goals or opportunities because you don’t think you have what it takes to succeed, taking a risk can help you challenge your own beliefs. Unless you try and put yourself out there, you’ll never know what you are truly capable of. Taking more risks can help you shatter old beliefs and build your confidence.
Earn more rewards. Big risks often come with bigger rewards. Whether it’s a job promotion or a dream career or connecting with a mentor, the more you put yourself out there the greater the chances are that you will gain something valuable.
Here’s how you can plan and prepare for taking smart risks and ensuring success.
Sharpen your decision-making
If you want to take risks that yield positive results, you’ll want to be better at making informed decisions.
Oftentimes, our decision-making ability can be muddled by our own fears, doubts, and past experiences. For instance, a fear of failure or a previous negative experience with risk-taking can cloud your judgment and cause you to avoid taking risks.
Here are some exercises you can do to help you assess the risk at hand and make an informed decision.
Reflect on past experiences. Take a look back at the past year and identify all the times you took a chance on your career. It could be as small as the time you reached out to an acquaintance for coffee. Or as big as the time you asked your boss for a raise.
Then ask yourself: What was the outcome of that risk? And how did you feel afterwards?
For example, if the outcome wasn’t successful, did you feel disappointment? Or were you able to move on pretty quickly? Or if the outcome was positive, did you feel good about yourself? Was the risk worth it in the end?
This exercise might give you a different perspective on your risk-taking and the past experiences you’ve had. Maybe you’ll see that you have a pretty good track record when it comes to risks. Or maybe you’ll realize that the negative outcome wasn’t as bad as you had previously thought and that you were able to bounce back.
Assess your goals. Is this risk aligned with your overarching goals? Will this get you closer to what you want to be doing professionally? If the answer is yes, then this is probably a risk worth taking.
Address your fears. It helps to turn to a journal and let yourself free-write for this exercise. Ask yourself: What am I afraid of? What really is the worst that can happen? If it’s perfectionism or a fear of failure that’s holding you back, you can counter it by listing all the ways you can grow from taking this risk. It’s also good to balance out the fears by making a list of all the potential rewards you can gain by putting yourself out there.
Ease into a risk
When taking a risk, it’s a smart idea to ease your way into it and start at the shallow end, rather than diving in headfirst.
Not only does this measured approach help you get acclimated and gain more self-confidence as you proceed, but it also gives you wiggle room to make mistakes.
For example, let’s say you’ve always wanted to write a novel, but you’re scared to commit to such a huge creative undertaking. Rather than jumping right into it and trying to write your first novel from scratch, which could prove to be overwhelming, take small steps and build your way into it.
One way you could start small is to enroll in an online fiction writing class. This way, you can learn techniques and exercises from a professional, get feedback on your work, and most importantly, make mistakes in a safe space. And the lessons that you glean from those mistakes will be valuable when moving forward.
Or, if you’re trying to build up the courage to leave your job and pursue a freelancing career, maybe start small and try to land a couple of freelancing clients first before jumping ship.
This way, you’re building your client list, developing relationships, and getting a feel for the freelancing life, before leaving the safety of your full-time job. You could also consider gradually transitioning out of your full-time job by finding part-time work or consulting work, before fully committing to going solo.
Find like-minded people
A big risk seems less terrifying when you surround yourself with like-minded people. You can share advice, swap stories, and learn valuable lessons from them.
So if you’re a first time writer, form a writer’s group.
If you’re looking to start a small business, meet others who are also developing their own business.
If you’re looking to move up in your company, find a colleague who’s learned the ropes and can offer advice.
You don’t have to engage in risks alone. You can share the wisdom and expertise of others to help you take smarter risks and succeed.