The Wisdom of Risk Taking – Love The Uncertainty
The person who risks nothing, does nothing; has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. ~ Leo F. Buscaglia (Tweet this)
In a society based on a model of competition, success doesn’t come without risk taking. As competitive as things appear, looking at the big picture, we all face decisions with the potentiality to turn out poorly.
What Is Risk?
Language is powerful; the meaning we attach to words is even more powerful. The mere sound of the word “risk” is enough to make someone’s eyes open with fear. Risk is simply another word for uncertainty. Though this word has been shown to increase stress as well, the good news about uncertainty is that it has the potential to become certainty. In order to take risks we must learn the art of handling uncertainties. How comfortable we are with uncertainty is vitally important to stress levels and ultimately success.
It is futile to try and remove emotions like fear from risk taking. Rather, in learning to handle risk well, one must simply consider their psychological reaction to it. The better we know “ourselves,” the better we can make risk taking our friend. Here are the guidelines:
1. Know your anxiety level and be honest about it
What we face we take back under our control. When we deny our emotional reactions we only give them power to persist. Awareness is the catalyst to change. View your chronic emotional tones with honesty and you will be well on the way to changing them.
2. Befriend your emotional reactions
Behave like you would with a small child—it doesn’t help to belittle their emotions. Rather, take them in the direction of fear with courageousness. Walk them into the closet, take them under the bed and show them there is nothing to fear but fear itself. In this process we come to understand that if we create the fear, we can un-create it.
3. Be rational but not reasonable
Rationality has it’s role but it’s not as quite as important as we think. Do not be fooled that reason can defeat risk. Reason can help us see the possibilities we already see. However, the unknowns are infinite; therefore, let reason serve to expand awareness—not to keep you in a box. A good way to exercise this is to ask, “What hidden opportunities do I not see?”
4. Gather as much useful information as possible
If our awareness is fragmented, we are fragmented. You could say that where our attention is, we are. Therefore, we are our attention. Most people’s initial reaction to risk taking is to shrink and hyper-focus on a result, problem or solution. However, expansion is the solution. If we can put our attention on wholeness, we become whole . . . then the hidden opportunities surface.
5. See other points of view
Again, any solution that expands one’s awareness is a helpful solution—always expansion, never contraction. When we can stand in another’s awareness we gain their wisdom. Each of us is a genius at at least one thing. This is much different than being dependent on people’s opinions. When we stand in another’s view we are still the choice maker. As Jimi Hendrix so eloquently puts it “Wisdom listens.”
6. Don’t follow the crowd
Where gaining the view of another can expand our awareness, following the crowd is a surefire way to shrink it. The “crowd” is a phenomenon based on fear—those unwilling to be at cause to their own creations, are therefore, afraid of risk taking. If you need guidance, seek it from someone who is where you want to be.
7. Trends are not the same as certainty
Looking to the crowd we can see trends. Trends are usually a sign of a deeper fear of uncertainty. Trends are a desperate attempt to hold onto the old in fear of change. Following a trend never brings anything more than a false sense of comfort. Instead, embrace the new, be a trendsetter, a pioneer of the future. The only true certainty is change. Rather than fight this truth, we would be better supported if we accepted and worked with its creative power.
The most powerful investors, business moguls and entrepreneurs all follow some or all of these guidelines. The discomfort zone is their comfort zone. If we view the traits of powerful risk takers we will find the following:
- Acceptance and
- High sense of self
At first glimpse it’s hard to see how risk taking could be anybody’s friend. When anything feels challenging or evokes the slightest pain we often resort to removing it. It is a type of “rationalized risk” that keeps people up at night contemplating their choices. The popular paralysis of analysis has people turning risk into a matter for the number crunchers. The rise of self-help books, life coaching and these articles attest to the popularity of quantified risk.
But at the same time, rational risk has proved to be an illusion. We can calculate risk until we’re blue in the face; however, irrationality always intervenes. How many times have we followed the promised calculations—like getting a degree—only to find ourselves jobless when we graduate?
Cowardice vs. Courageousness
We live in a flux, where uncertainty is all around us. Though we hide from it the best we can with our routine, promised careers, degrees and houses we call home—there is no escaping the unknown. The only thing to do is to courageously face it and make the unknown, known. Sadly, there is no cure for cowardice, but if there were traits of the cowards, these would be them:
- Denying of responsibility of their decisions.
- Not facing the problem head on.
- Unwillingness to handle emotions.
- Fixation on outcomes, which blinds us to the process—the ends justified the means.
- Competitiveness—refusing to lose, no matter what it took; even if it was destructive.
- Attachment, making problems personal.
- Over-controlling, focused on details while losing sight of the big picture.
In the simplest of solutions, these blind spots can be overcome by asking every day, “How am I doing?” This is not a degree of performance but rather a feeling. Are you in your comfort zone? Do you detect signs of stress? If so, how are you handing it?
This isn’t psychoanalyzing. We’re just talking about being in touch with yourself. The spirit is constantly dynamic. When we seek, it’s wisdom; we become flexible, open, and alert. Essentially we are learning to master risk.
In a few words, risk becomes your friend when you have enough self-awareness to be comfortable with change, uncertainty, and unpredictability. These are the inescapable aspects of life we are trying to escape. Ultimately, we get to decide to be cowards or courageous. As a word of inspiration, when we face uncertainty it becomes the creative solution for discovery, and the fulfillment of our inner potential.
When it comes to risk taking, perhaps the greatest risk of all is to love. Love the risk, love the uncertainty—like placing your heart on the line for the love of another, the potentiality of reward always outweighs the illusion of failure.