Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Take (Calculated) Risks

The Art of Risk Taking
The key to being happy
by S.K. Smith
Risk can be scary.

Whether the task at hand is jumping from a plane or simply trying a new restaurant, as human beings, we tend to fear the unknown. This is why even the smallest change to the status quo can inspire anxiety - or at least a good case of the what ifs (what if I fail, what if I don't like it, what if it goes brilliantly?), no matter how adventurous you consider yourself to be.

Motivated by such worries, it's no wonder that many of us elect to take the safe route when faced with a decision of any kind (small or big!). But safest isn't always best according to the latest research. In fact, science is once again catching up to age-old wisdom and proving that with great risk comes great reward. Why, you ask?
Because it's when we face our fears that we grow…

Your personal best Think about the moments in life that have made you the happiest. Whether it was achieving a goal, trusting a lover, taking on a new job (or anything else for that matter)... odds are, getting to the payoff involved some uncertainty. You couldn't have been sure things would work out when you began, and you may have experienced some nervousness or fear, but you took the leap and moved ahead anyway - and it paid off. That's because there is no "safe" way. As we've seen again recently with the mortgage crisis, even stalwart institutions go under. "The best laid" plans go awry. Disaster strikes… But so does good fortune - especially when we're willing to make our own.

Inspiring minds
Despite what we think when we're feeling complacent, challenge is inspiring. As we implore our existing skill sets (social, problem-solving, communication or otherwise) we feel more and more capable as those skill sets expand. When we make progress, encountering and surmounting obstacles, our emotional resilience and confidence increase.

In short, by engaging in life outside of the predictable routine, we feel active and participatory… invigorated, and sure, frustrated at times - but satisfied, even when things don't turn out as we'd hoped. That's because experience (including failure) is what prepares us to face our next set of challenges. In other words, chances are the building blocks of a fulfilling life.

If this all sounds like too much for you, take note. Becoming engaged in "The Art of Risk Taking" doesn't have to include life-threatening extreme sports, or even venturing too far from your daily routine. It's okay to start small (and maybe even stay there), and your risks should not be all or nothing or without consideration of if things go wrong. The point is to participate.

Explore areas you find intriguing or exciting. Take paths you wouldn't usually consider if they entice you. And trust your instincts. One of the keys to successful engagement is to think less about outcomes and more about the actual experience. If something feels good when you're doing it, that's a good sign. A little nervousness is okay too. But if your rush is more panic than excitement, take a step back and re-assess. While blind risk taking will do little but leave you feeling foolish, educated risk taking will help you to feel inspired and ultimately enrich your life.

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