How to Have a Risk-Ready Mindset

When’s the last time you took a risk? For me, it’s when I put on these earrings!

Every time I post a blogcast or even something on the socials, I’m taking a little risk. I’m putting myself out there, sharing my insights and experiences…my take on things…and that can expose me to what my brain can interpret as danger—even though it’s really just discomfort, but I’ll get into more on that here in a bit.

Everyday life risks for established people are more scary!
Let’s talk about taking risks. For this discussion, I won’t get into risks of the adventure-seeking variety—nothing about free soloing or jumping out of airplanes here. I’m also not here to talk about risks taken by people who are hard-wired thrill seekers or those who have little or nothing to lose.

I want to look at risks that are more scary—risks related to life choices, career moves, relationships, and such, up for consideration by those of us who are already established in life, relatively successful, and generally happy and content.

You are too smart not to take more risks.
A few years back, I saw this statement in an Instagram post: “You are too smart not to take more risks.”. Pardon that I’m not able to offer proper attribution to the person who originally posted it. But—whoever did so—THANK YOU! I have held on to this thought as part of my inner dialogue ever since.

When intelligence meets risk taking, the results can be amazing.

I’ve never regretted the risks I’ve taken—even if outcomes were different than I’d hoped.
Throughout my life, I’ve taken some bold leaps, jumping from points of stability that some people would’ve said were good enough that I should just stay put to points of new opportunity and change for the better. Interestingly, I don’t regret any of those leaps, but I do have misgivings about some of the leaps I didn’t take—no outright regret because I choose to trust that all things have worked out as they were supposed to…but, still, I am left to wonder. No doubt, I can say unequivocally that those bold leaps—those risks that I did take—are why I have the life that I love today.

Intelligent risk isn’t about betting the farm.
All too often, risk taking is equated with gambling—rolling the dice when things’re set up for the house to win. When we relegate risks to just 50/50, ‘bet the farm’ scenarios, we’re likely to respond by either being totally timid or outright reckless. If you hang with me for any amount of time, you will encounter my teaching about the mental COE—the 3% of our brains that serves as Chief of Everything, leading us to plan and improve—and the 97% support staff, the part of our brains that is all about avoiding pain, seeking pleasure, and being efficient. When we only think of risks as the double-dog-dare 50/50 kind, it’s an indication that our brains’ 97% support staff is running the show.

Intelligent risk engages our 3% COE brain.
However, when we lead ourselves well with the 3% Chief of Everything in charge, we are prone to be aware of, seek, or even create options beyond the status quo, unprecedented opportunities, and new paths, that may be worth considering. Ever heard of a thing called homeostasis? In physiological terms, homeostasis is the body’s self-regulating process to remain stable internally despite external changes. But there’s also psychological homeostasis, and without intentional leadership from our brains’ COE, we might tend to adjust back to what’s safe and accepted rather than challenging ourselves to break out and take risks to go for the next level. When the COE is up front to welcome growth, this is where risk taking gets interesting, compelling, and more nuanced. It’s also where our tolerance is more measured. We become open to intelligently, proactively considering risks of more types and at a range of levels.

Risks come in degrees. The willingness to take risks—risk tolerance—varies for each of us and that variance can change over time based on our evolving personalities, what we might be risking, what we know about the risk, and our foundation and life experience at the time. Ya know how your wealth manager invites you to revisit your investments occasionally to assess your risk tolerance in accordance with other factors such as your age and your financial goals? Intelligent risks are likely to be measured mix of well thought out strategies, knowledge and experience, focus on a desired goal or outcome, curiosity—all quite possibly undergirded by a bit of thrill-seeking—not of the ‘shoot me out of a cannon’ variety but the urge to grow, change, progress, achieve.

When’s the last time you took a risk?
Probably more recently than you might realize. Sure, most of us don’t randomly think to ourselves: “Hey, I should take a risk today!” But we often take risks and don’t even define them as such. Risks aren’t always big and bold or obvious. Risks can be so subtle…signing up for that online course, sending the email, hitting ‘share’ on that Instagram post, setting the goal and meaning it this time.

Why do we avoid risks?
Ah, that’s our 97% support staff brains doing the job it evolved to do for us: avoid pain and danger, keep us safe, and be efficient. The definition of a risk is “a situation involving exposure to danger” and our 97% support staff is all about doing whatever it takes to help us not be exposed to danger. But that was back when danger was really dangerous; today, we’re not staying in the cave to hide from terrible beasts that want to eat us. Without beastly threats, our 97% brains interpret discomfort as danger. That’s why it’s so easy to fall into a run of scrolling Netflix and not going for our goals.

It’s simple to settle into a daily pattern and not realize it. That’s not a wrong way to be—if you choose to be so consciously because you’re satisfied with your daily pattern. I invite you, me—everybody—to stay actively aware and keep our 3% COEs in charge to ensure where we are is truly where we want to be. There is a fine line between contentment and complacency. When we keep a growth mindset, we’re open to learning and going, and our brains’ COEs can intelligently assess when to make changes—and take risks.

You are too smart not to take more risks.

Adopt a Risk-Ready mindset.
Do one thing each day that scares you.
You’ve probably happened upon that meme on the socials at some point. I like the sentiment and connect with it more when I receive it in context of how that ‘one scary, risky thing’ can be intentional…how it can move me in the direction of my aspirations.

With a risk-ready mindset, your mental COE is in the lead. You are being consciously aware, you’re actively seeking opportunities, you’re demanding more of yourself than you did the day before. You are constantly reminding yourself that DISCOMFORT is not DANGER. All is well; you’re just growing and going for your full potential.

With intelligent intention, risks can be both thrilling and fulfilling. 

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