How Taking Risks Can Lead You to a Better Life

Taking risks doesn’t mean succeeding every time, and that’s OK! Taking risks can lead to failure which in turn can help you grow as a person.

Aug 1, 2018
Female climber dangles from the edge of a challenging cliff

Many of life’s greatest achievements require going outside of your comfort zone. Whether it means overcoming shyness to perform onstage, investing money to help your business grow, or putting yourself out there for the chance to find love, some of life’s most rewarding experiences come as a result of taking risks.

However, many of us have a difficult time dealing with the uncertainty that goes along with taking risks. A feeling of unease grows out of not knowing the outcome and the fear of potential failure. What if I embarrass myself in front of everyone? What if I lose all the money that I invested? What if I open my heart and get rejected? What if I’m not good enough?

Answer that with another “what if”: what if the point of taking risks isn’t the outcome, but the process in and of itself. Through taking risks, we must confront our own fears, and sometimes that leads to failure… But what if that wasn’t such a bad thing after all?

The Key to Succeed? Learn to Fail

“The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.” — Stephen McCranie

Many may have a negative view of failure, but actually, it can provide an essential tool for building character. Failure makes us stronger and more resilient. People who fail repeatedly develop persistence in the face of difficulties.

Look at the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, who lost eight elections, failed twice in business, and suffered a nervous breakdown all before becoming one the greatest American presidents. Through failure, he developed the persistence necessary to later lead his country through one of it’s hardest periods in history. Perhaps he never could have done so without experiencing so many failures himself.

What does that tell us? Taking risks doesn’t mean succeeding every time, and that’s ok! The process of taking risks may lead to failure, but even that can make us a better person by increasing the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.

The One Thing Risk-Takers Have in Common? Overconfidence

Failure might turn us into better people, but that doesn’t make it any less difficult to take risks. It turns out that building confidence can help in overcoming the fear of risk-taking.

Entrepreneurs must go up against tremendous odds to build a successful business. That means taking big risks without knowing the outcome. What makes them do this? Confidence, and a lot of it. In a study, Ohio State University management professor Jay Barney, Ph.D., and Lowell Busenitz, Ph.D., of the University of Houston, asked 124 successful entrepreneurs and 95 top managers to answer a round of questions and rate how sure they felt about their responses. While both groups demonstrated confidence, the results proved that the entrepreneurs had an exceptionally high level of confidence.

Confident grandmother

Learn to Overcome Your Fears

Luckily, confidence is a learnable skill. Erika Casriel describes in her book, Living Fully with Shyness and Social Anxiety, "The reality is that most socially confident people deliberately learn specific skills." That means, through practice, we can develop better confidence, equipping us with the right skills to take risks.

Even someone as seemingly outgoing as comedian Will Ferrell once considered himself painfully shy and claims he had to work very hard to overcome his lack of confidence. To do so, he would do idiotic things in public so that people would laugh at him. He told People Magazine,” In college, I would push an overhead projector across campus with my pants just low enough to show my butt. Then my friend would incite the crowd to be like, 'Look at that idiot!' That's how I got over being shy."

What does this tell us about taking risks? When we feel shy or afraid of something, we can take action to build more confidence. Instead of accepting himself as a shy person, Ferrell had the courage to overcome his fears by facing them. In doing so, he felt more confident outside of his comfort zone.

Close-up of young person rafting on the river

The Cycle of Success

The takeaway? Taking a risk to achieve a goal requires courage to face the fear of uncertainty. No matter the outcome, either way, we grow through the process and become more resilient and confident. Better yet, building those skills helps in taking more risks and improves the chances of achieving future goals.

happy entrepreneur celebrating success
ALLISON MICHELLE DIENSTMAN, CONTRIBUTOR
Working from her laptop as a freelance writer, Allison lives as a digital nomad, exploring the world while sharing positivity and laughter. She is a lover of language, travel, music, and creativity with a degree in Chinese language and literature.

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