The Big Idea
We can’t calculate risk based on our fears.
Questions I Answer
- How do I figure out if a risk is worth it?
- Is there a method to assess risk?
- How do I know if it’s my intuition or fear?
- How can I make more confident decisions?
Actions to Take
- Practice the skill of taking risks with intention & making informed decisions. Trust yourself & the decisions that you have made to get you to where you are now. Check-in with yourself after taking or not taking a risk and consider how you can adjust your practice moving forward.
Key Topics in the Show
Practicing the skill of taking risks
Deciphering between fear and intuition
Assessing if the risk has an intention or not
Actionable ways to take intentional & meaningful risks
Defining success when taking risks
Resources and Links
Welcome to Productivity Paradox from inkWELL Press. A podcast focused on finding success and happiness through the power of productivity. Each season Tanya focuses on specific strategies to help you discover your own priorities and purpose. Season six is all about turning your stumbling blocks into starting blocks.
You can also join Tanya for more interaction and support in her free Facebook group at inkWELLpress.com/group, and now, here’s your host, Tanya Dalton.
Hello, hello everyone. Welcome to Productivity Paradox. I’m your host Tanya Dalton, owner of inkWELL Press and this is episode 77. Today’s episode is brought to you by Trunk Club, and I’ll be sharing a little bit more about that later in the episode. Today, I want to talk about taking risks. As you know, this entire season we’ve been talking about taking our stumbling blocks and turning them into starting blocks. I think taking risks is a big stumbling block for a lot of people.
Risk taking has been vital to humans for, really, as long as we’ve been alive. When our ancestors were hunters and gatherers, they risked their lives in search of food and fending off predators. Risk taking involves testing our boundaries in a safe environment, and that helps us cultivate what we value and define who we are. Andreas Wilke, a psychology professor at Clarkson University, studies decision making and says that when we take risks we are very quickly, usually subconsciously, evaluating the perceived chances and benefits of success versus failure. If the chance of success and the benefits of success outweigh the chance of failure and the cost of failure, then our minds tell us to go for it.
Making decisions often relies on our skill level or our expertise in it. When you have more experience in taking risks, you’re more likely to take the chance that seems riskier to others. It isn’t that big of a deal to you because you’ve gotten more used to it. Some people are more prone to taking risks, and I know that I am. I dream big and I often risk big, but I never take big risks unless I’ve absolutely thought them through, all the way through. It’s not about leaping off the cliff. It’s about standing on the edge, taking the time to assess whether you really can make the jump, and then give yourself a running start. There’s a big difference there.
It makes sense, then, that the best way to increase the chances that you’ll actually go for a risk is to practice taking them. Push yourself just outside of your comfort zone. I know that feels a little bit uncomfortable. Our comfort zone is a place that feels really good, but we need to push ourselves a little bit from time to time. Because we have this fear of risk, practicing can really help increase the perceived benefits of success. Here’s the catch: it doesn’t really affect the perceived cost of failure. Sometimes these costs of failure are real, but often they’re largely imagined.
We experience fear, both physical and emotional danger, in the same part of our brain. We have to try to change our mindset of viewing the results of our risk as either success or failure. Instead, we need to see ourselves as successful just for taking the risk at all, regardless of the outcome. Too many people confuse their gut
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instinct with fear. When we feel fearful and confuse it with our intuition, we assume that means that we shouldn’t take this risk at all and decide to go back into that comfort zone. In other words, if something feels scary, it’s too risky and we shouldn’t do it. Listen, fear is a natural state. We all experience it, even if we are risk prone.
Let me put this idea of fear and risk into perspective for you. The number one fear that most people have is public speaking. Which, isn’t actually all that risky. While people might judge your speaking ability or not connect with your message, their judgment likely won’t kill you, even if it feels that way. Compare that, though, with a risky activity that most people don’t even think twice about: driving a car. Statistics show that the odds of dying in a car accident over the course of your lifetime are one in 606. There’s a zero chance that you’ll die of stage fright. Think of it that way. Why are we so afraid of risk if it’s really not that dangerous often?
On the other hand, sometimes having no fear at all is just as bad as being overly fearful. Take, for example, the get rich quick schemes. They promise a giant return on investment with no risk. They don’t feel scary, so you assume there’s no risk, which we actually know is not true. Anything that seems too good really is too good. We can’t calculate risk based off of our fears. Instead, you have to assess the risk realistically by looking at facts. Create a list of pros and cons to look at the potential risks and the benefits. Writing down the key facts and reading back over them will help you see the risk logically and help balance out your emotions. We don’t want your emotions deciding whether you’re going to take a risk or not, we really want to use our rational thinking.
Now, I shared a download a while back on managing fear, and I think it really applies here. You can grab that at inkWELLpress.com/podcast under episode 77. This download basically walks you through the very simple process of really analyzing risk so you can assess whether it’s a risk with intention or not. Now, if you’re a person who runs head on into risk, I think it’s a great exercise for you to do as well. When you feel yourself getting excited about an opportunity and you know you’re overlooking the risks, take a minute, breathe and think it through. You might even want to ask someone you trust about the potential downsides to help you see the situation rationally. Similarly, if you’re paralyzed by fear, talking to someone about potential benefits might just help you move forward and even the courage to take the leap.
I want to talk about how to take intentional risks, and I want you to notice that word I used here, intentional. This is not just about risk taking. It’s about taking meaningful risks. The secret to being able to take intentional risks is a series of small changes to shift your mindset. Practicing these in your daily life will help you be ready to make the big decisions quickly without second guessing yourself. You have to really change your story. What’s the story that you tell yourself about risk? What’s the story you tell yourself about who you are? Flip that on its head. Tell yourself a story where you are a strong person who is willing to take the risks. Start viewing risks as opportunities to grow instead of looking at them as threats.
Earlier this season we talked about that idea of faking it until you become it. Replace that negative thinking with presence and realistic thinking until you really become that future self. Quiet down that inner critic, because you know what? She is so loud and so obnoxious in all of our heads, we’ve got to quiet her down and really
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listen to what we want to do and what we think we are capable of. Part of that is really changing those stories. You can start to do this and ease into this idea by growing your skills. Whatever it is you’re wanting to do, whether it’s running a race or giving a speech, start deliberately practicing to improve your skills and you’ll gain experience and you’ll start to gain a little more confidence in yourself.
Really focus on the learning part of the experience. Change your definition of success to learning and growing throughout the entire process. It’s not always about the end goal. It really often times is about that process we’re going through. If you’re focused on getting money or being happy, you’ll likely feel disappointed throughout
the process. Decide that whether you fail or succeed in the conventional sense, the education you get out of the experience is part of the success itself.
One of the things you can do is to treat it like a goal. Even if they’re small risks, setting goals is the first step to actually taking that leap and getting good outcomes. If the risk you’re taking is applying for opportunities of some kind, like reaching out to someone you admire or applying for a job or a grant or applying to school, treat submitting the application as a success in itself. Even if you’re not accepted or if you receive a rejection letter, that is physical proof that you tried. There’s so much success is simply putting yourself out there and trying.
Elizabeth Gilbert used to use her collection of rejection letters as motivation to submit her work to even more publishers. J.K. Rowling did the same. Rejection or someone not understanding your special brand of magic doesn’t mean a thing, and it is not a reflection on you. The success is in taking the risk at all. I want to talk about a few other ways that we can take risks with intention, but first I want to take a quick break for our sponsor.
This episode has been brought to you by Trunk Club. If you aren’t familiar with Trunk Club, it’s like having your own personal stylist who hand-picks your outfits just for you. Then she ships you a complete collection designed to work together and mix
and match. Because you use the same stylist again and again, they begin to really understand your unique needs and styles.
I’ve been using Trunk Club for quite some time now and I love it. I want to feel like I’m up with the latest trends, but I don’t have time to do the shopping. I have a chat directly with my stylist, I tell her what I have coming up, I choose a budget, and she pulls together a collection for me. The best part is, there is no charge for the stylist if you purchase anything in your collection. Because it works through Nordstrom’s, everything’s a breeze. I love that. Want to work with my personal stylist? Simply go to inkWELLpress.com/trunkclub and you’ll be introduced to her.
I want to go back to this idea, though, of taking risks with intention, because it takes some getting used to discomfort. We talked about that idea of your comfort zone and how stretching beyond that a lot of times can feel a little bit like an itchy tag in your shirt. It’s just a little bit uncomfortable, but eventually you get used to it. Right? Start taking more and more smaller, lower stakes risks. Just push outside of that comfort zone by practicing your skills in new arenas, like giving a speech at a small dinner party or joining a racing practice group if you’re wanting to get better
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with your running. You have to stop catastrophizing, or thinking about the worst possible outcomes.
Too often, we become obsessed with all the bad outcomes that are possible, and we let that fear hold us back. Instead, try thinking of the best possible outcome along with the worse. The reality is usually somewhere in the middle. Right? You can brainstorm practical steps you can take for the possible bad outcomes and the possible good outcomes that you think of. Here’s the catch: I don’t want you to be held back by having an exact plan of, “I’m going to do this and then this is going to happen and then that will happen.”
Reality sets in, and that’s not always how it’s going to work. Granted, I think it’s a great idea of have a plan in place, but it shouldn’t be inflexible. As with all things when we’re talking about productivity, I think flexibility is key. I think it’s important to be flexible about where you’re going. When you start doing the deep work, you may have to rework your plan and take on new opportunities that you hadn’t even thought of at first, that wasn’t even on your radar until you got started. Keep that in mind, we need to be flexible.
I want to remind you to learn to fail positively. Failure simply means you’ve pushed yourself out of your comfort zone. Remember, the only true failure is the one you haven’t learned from. Try activities that you struggle with. Overcoming these perceived limitations help you acquire new skills. New skills improve your brain power. Brain power improves your confidence. It’s a domino effect here. Keep trying. Doesn’t matter if you fail. What matters is that you’ve tried.
We sometimes get caught in this loop of, “This is what I’ve always done so this is how it’s always going to be.” I want you to shift into a laboratory mentality, to foster some divergent thinking. Often times, when we look at what has happened to us again and again, we come up with these ideas of, “This is just how this is.” That can really dull your creativity. It doesn’t really push you to innovate or come up with new ideas. Instead, use those breadcrumbs as springboards to think about new things you could be working on.
Not all problems have a single answer, and this is what I mean by divergent thinking. It’s all about the idea of coming up with alternative answers to the history, to the things that have happened to you in the past. Get curious, challenge yourself to come up with solutions to your problems. To the things you’ve experienced in the past, how can use use those as springboards? Then begin to build upon that, giving yourself these small daily challenges to practice thinking about these breadcrumbs in different ways. Thinking about ways that you can build up risk or you can think about solutions to your problems in a different way.
You might even want to consider connecting with others who have done something similar, in a broad sense. You know, let’s say you’re starting an online business of some kind. Don’t just talk to other people who do the exact same thing or in the exact same industry. Talk to others who started different kinds of online businesses, asking what risk they took or what are the real pros and cons. Really open up your boundaries and open up to the ideas from other people. Because, I think
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when we do that and we hear other people’s stories, it helps give ourselves permission to fail.
You see, we all have times where we fail. No matter how successful we are, failure is a part of life. Disappointment in the outcome of our work ends up leading to a fear of failure, and that inhibits creativity. Instead, we need to set a baseline failure rate. You know there’s going to be times you’re going to fail. I can promise you right now, there are things I’m going to plan to do in the future that is going to fail. That’s okay. We have to allow ourselves the grace to fail.
Jeff Bezos says, “Amazon is the best place in the world to fail, because the company is willing to take big risks.” It’s true, they’ve taken huge risks, but at a lot of success. Here’s what’s interesting. Amazon knows 90% of their risks will fail. Now, he says that there are two kinds of decision-making that goes into play when you have risks. Type one, decisions aren’t reversible, so you have to be very, very careful making them. Type two, decisions are like walking through a door, in that you can always go back if you don’t like the decision. Often times, we confuse the two and we lean into one of these as either all decisions are reversible or all decisions are irreversible.
If you have this underlying foundation of believing that all decisions are irreversible, you’re going to result in some slowness, some risk aversion, failure to experiment, and lower innovation. If you treat all decisions as reversible, you run into problems quickly because we make decisions very quickly, and then some of these things are irreversible. Instead, we need to be aware that there are two very different types of decisions being made, and what we know is reversible and what we know is irreversible are two very different processes. Take your time and assess the risk. Use that download that I shared with you earlier from this week’s episode to help you out with this.
I really think that taking the time to take a deep breath, putting a pen to paper will really help you see what is really a risk and what is not really a risk. Practice these skills and combine them with the skills we learned in the last episode about cultivating presence. Being present helps you make more informed decisions and take risks with intention. Remember, it’s not just about taking the leap. It’s about looking before you leap. I want to remind you to trust yourself. You really are a smart person. You’ve made great decisions to get you to this point. You have to believe in yourself. Always take time after taking a risk or not taking a risk to check in with yourself to see how you felt before, during, and after the risk-taking moment. Consider how you can adjust your practice in moving forward.
I hope this episode has helped you take this stumbling block and turn it into a starting block. I’m so excited, because next week is our last episode of this season, which I have thoroughly enjoyed. We are going to be talking about manifesting and visualizing success, so make sure to tune in for that next week. Don’t forget to grab that download I mentioned earlier. You can grab that at inkWELLpress.com/podcast under episode 77. If you’d like to dive a little bit deeper into this topic, head on over to YouTube. I’ve got a video out today on five steps to taking risks so you can get what you want. Head over to inkWELLpress.com/youtube to check out that video. All
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right, one more episode to go in this season and I cannot wait. Until next time, have a beautiful and productive week.
Thanks for listening to Productivity Paradox from inkWELL Press. To join Tanya’s free group, simply go to inkWELLpress.com/group.