Risk-taking is scary but, in the long run, sticking with a "secure" status quo may be even riskier. Here's some advice on how to cope with the fear.
We strive to create a world that’s safe and secure, but the fact is that life itself is inherently risky.
What’s more, sometimes taking a risk is the smartest move you can make. Moving to a new city, going back to school, changing careers, quitting your job to start your own business — these may be the best, most rewarding decisions of your lifetime. Indeed, in the long run, sticking with a “secure” status quo can be riskier than taking an intelligent risk.
However, risk is always scary. Here are a few ways to cope:
Name that fear. You can’t deal with an issue if you don’t have a clear idea of what the issue really is.
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Break it down. Major life steps — going back to school, changing careers — can feel overwhelming. Breaking down the process into steps makes it seem less huge.
Do your homework. Learn as much as you can about this new job/city/school/life. At the same time, beware of getting bogged down in the research phase.
Test the waters. Before starting a new business, work on it part-time at first, while keeping your day job. Before entering a new field, try volunteering in that field first.
Have a fallback strategy. Think through what you would do if you crash and burn. Knowing you have a Plan B can help you sleep at night.
Get some risk buddies. Find some bold, courageous, positive people who’ve taken successful risks in their own lives and who support your goals. Talk with them. Observe them. How did they do it?
Embrace fear. Fear is actually a sign that you’re making progress. Try to welcome it as a sign that you’re moving toward your goal.
Assemble your tool kit. List what you need to take the risk (capital, training/certifications, a mentor) and start to acquire these items.
Expect setbacks. Your first effort will probably not be perfect. Some things will go wrong. Make course corrections as necessary. Be flexible. Learn from your failures. Don’t give up at the first obstacle.
Just do it. If you wait until all conditions are perfect, you might never take a step. At some point, you’re going to have to stop preparing, planning and thinking — and start acting.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.