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Taking Risks: How to Take Calculated Risks to Get Ahead in Anything

Taking risks can be both the smartest and dumbest thing you can do with your life. A smart risk -- one that may put you a rung higher on the corporate ladder, or saying "I do" to the love of your life -- is, in fact, just about the only way to get ahead in life, whether that be financially, career-wise, in relationships, you name it.

Meanwhile, a not-so-smart risk -- like popping wheelies down the highway on your new motorcycle or leaking that confidential memo to your company's competitor -- can easily spell disaster.

risk taking

Taking risks might seem scary, but the more you do it, the easier it will become (and the further ahead you'll get) … if you follow the guidelines below.

With some risks, the "smartness factor" is inherent and obvious. But for all those other risks, from the tiny 'risking a new route to work,' to the major 'changing careers,' knowing whether or not the risk is a good one can be confusing. Knowing how to take a calculated risk to get ahead is a skill we all need to have, and it starts, first and foremost, with knowing what you want.

The Key to Taking Smart Risks: Know What You Want

"What I encourage people to do is picture themselves 20 years from now in the same job at the same desk and with the same people, simply to show them what will happen if they don't take any risks. The color just drains out of their faces. But if you don't make an effort to change and get what you want, then life probably won't turn out how you want it to," says psychologist Gary Leboff.

A major part of the problem, according to Leboff, is that most people are living their lives to please other people, or they are living the life they think they should (rather than the life they really want).

"The reason most people are unhappy is that they are attempting to live the lives they have been persuaded are right for them," Leboff says. "If you don't know yourself in the first place, then it is impossible to find happiness in life -- most people are lost in a fog that blinds them to seeing who they have the ability to be, rather than who they think they should be."

risk taking

Risk-taking rule #1: Don't Risk Everything.

Your first step, then, should be to identify what it is you want … then start taking the risks to get you there. If you want more fulfillment in your social life, perhaps you would consider "risking" signing up for a class that interests you, in order to meet some like-minded people. Or, if you want to make more money, you might consider taking the risk to ask for a raise.

"The idea that it is about making these huge, sweeping adjustments such as leaving your partner or changing jobs, is not what this is all about -- yes, perhaps in the future, but such big changes always frighten people to begin with … your initial risks don't need to be life-changing. It's all about taking baby steps because you need to find the confidence to try out bigger things later on -- and you could start with absolutely anything," Leboff explains.

Ready to Take Some Risks? Here's How to do it WELL

  1. Don't risk everything. You should only risk something that, in the event it doesn't go your way, won't ruin you financially, emotionally or physically.

  2. Ask for what you want. More often than not, you will get it.

  3. Avoid unhealthy risks. The risks you take should be positive. They should not put you, or others, at risk of physical or emotional harm.

  4. Learn from failures. Inevitably, some of your risks won't pan out. Turn these failures into a positive by figuring out where you went wrong, then applying what you learned to your next risk.

  5. Start right away. The more risks you take, the easier it will become. Remember, it doesn't need to be a huge risk to make a meaningful impact on your life. Some small risks to get you started include trying a new type of food, wearing a different style of clothing, changing your hairstyle or taking a weekend trip to someplace you've never been before.

  6. Don't worry about what others think. Remember, this is your life, your desire, your risk. Keep moving ahead with what you want, even if those around you have different views.

  7. If there's nothing to lose, take the risk. Oftentimes a risk may seem scary, but when you really examine it you'll find you have nothing to lose. If this is the case, always take the risk.

Risk-Taking Faux Pas

According to Shari Peace, president of Peace Talks, a professional speaking firm, and author of "Crank It Out! How to Get More Done At Work & In Your Life," there are six signs that tell you when a risk is NOT a good idea. If any of the following apply, you should skip the risk.

  1. There's a good chance you could lose everything.

  2. You have to put a lot on the line to get only a little.

  3. There are too many factors you can't control.

  4. You feel the odds are against you.

  5. There is no way to fix the outcome if it doesn't turn out how you want.

  6. You have to take the risk before having a chance to prepare and/or evaluate it.

Finally, if you are still wary of taking that first risk, remember that in order to get what you want, there is always some measure of risk involved.

Says Leboff, "Every day, ask yourself what you've done today that is daring or that is a bit of a stretch. If at the end of each day you can find just one thing, then you are moving, but if not, then you are getting more and more limited and your horizons are getting smaller and smaller."

Recommended Reading

12 Signs it is REALLY Time to Leave Your Job

Three Simple Strategies for Rekindling the Romance in Your Relationship


Yorkshire Post Today April 28, 2006

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