So you want to “Just do It”? You’re in luck, ’cause there’s a science to becoming a successful risk taker.
If you’re like me, you worry a lot. You ask a lot of “What ifs?” like “What if I won’t be employable after graduation?” and “What if I’m not hungry enough to finish this entire pizza?” For a lot of people, even getting your foot out the door can be difficult without worrying about every little thing that could go wrong.
Thoughts like these can prevent us from taking risks. In this economy, where no career is guaranteed, refusing to take risks is bad for business. Sometimes we associate taking risks with being reckless, but I’m talking about intelligent risk-taking. These kinds of risks can be as simple as taking that dance class when you’re afraid you’ll embarrass yourself, or as life-altering as starting your own business. Whether us worriers like it or not, taking risks is an inevitable step to becoming successful. But what prevents us from taking risks? And what can we do to become intelligent risk takers?
Vivian Giang’s article from BBC News explains that a lot of what prevents us from taking risks has to do with stress. According to neuroscientist Dr. Tara Swart, you can alter your physiological response to stress through psychological techniques such as “silencing the mind.” If you find yourself thinking about some embarrassing memory or worrisome event in your future, try to “focus on the sights, sounds, and physical sensations” around you. Dr. Swart says that by practicing mindfulness techniques and living healthily, you can lower your levels of cortisol and adrenaline, thus reducing your physiological stress response to worrisome events.
Other experts argue that by allowing your unconscious mind to take over, you can train yourself to be more open to taking risks. Neuroscientists believe that “between 90% and 98% of mental activity is unconscious.” According to Srini Pillay, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, engaging the unconscious mind can help your brain better connect past and present memories and ideas. One suggestion Pillay has for letting the subconscious take over is by “adopting a persona.” One 2016 study concluded that subjects were better at problem solving and “intelligent risk-taking” when they adopted a creative persona, such as an “eccentric poet,” rather than when they acted like a “rigid librarian.” The benefits of engaging the subconscious may explain why a lot of us like “sleeping on it” before making a big decision.
Another factor affecting our ability to take risks involves our patterns of thinking. Psychotherapist Deena Goodman provides strategies on how to manage “catastrophic thinking,” which causes us to worry about any possible outcome that could go wrong. When we critically analyze our fears and “What ifs?”, we realize that a lot of these worrisome thoughts are irrational. Goodman says we should write down all the possible negative outcomes that bother us and then ask ourselves, “so what?” Often, “people realise that they’ll survive most decisions that involve some risk and they come up with alternative plans in case anything does go awry.”
Like many others who struggle with taking risks, I used to constantly worry about what bad thing would happen next. Personally, I was able to manage my worrisome thoughts by accepting two things: bad things will happen to me, and I will fail at times. To become a risk taker, you have to accept that a lot of things are out of your control. Sure, bad things will happen to you because they happen to everyone. The trick is trusting that you’ll be strong enough to make it through, no matter what happens. Another important thing to accept is that you will make mistakes. We live in a society that loves to blame people for every little failure they make, causing us to blame ourselves for not being perfect. In reality, making mistakes is a vital part of growth and success. Even if you fail in front of others, the people who are the first to notice your imperfections are the least secure with their own.
Whether you’re a daredevil or a worrywart, practicing intelligent risk-taking can help us make informed decisions on what we want to do with our lives. Overall, intelligent risk-taking is about not letting fear get in the way of what you really want. Figure out what you want from life, fuck the haters, and Just DU It.
Source: BBC News