What I’ve Learned From Living Boldly and Taking Risks

October 26, 2016

People often tell me that I take a lot of chances. I declared my major in English when my South Asian family believed engineering and medicine should be the only two choices. I left a fabulous job in publishing to start my own online publicity company when “online” was just becoming a thing. I am of Pakistani-Muslim descent, and I married my Irish-Catholic husband after six months of dating, despite some raised eyebrows. And my husband joined me to co-run my business, FSB Associates. So, yes, I do take risks. I take risks because they keep paying off.

Related: Afraid of Risks? How to Be Bolder

As I swap stories with colleagues and friends, we all come away from risk with one similar takeaway: When you push through fear, exhilaration lies on the other side. Worrying about an outcome or feeling a loss of control about a decision is normal. From my experiences, I’ve discovered that you have to normalize fear. You can feel it (that’s normal), but you can’t let the fear of uncertainty stop you. Because exhilaration awaits on the other side.

The chances I have taken have not always gone as planned or expected. Successful or not, every risk comes with the reward of a vital learning experience. Change happens to all of us. By being bold and pushing through fear, I realized we actually grow and gain some control over the changes that happen to us. Every change helps us realize our full potential.

Here are some other lessons I learned from my bold choices:

1. There is time for planning and time for action.

I meet so many people who tell me they have a dream to start their own business, or to move to another country. When I ask, “What steps are you taking toward that dream?” they respond with a research plan. In some ways, the internet—with all its information—can be paralyzing.

Don’t get caught up in planning. Not everything is going to go smoothly, no matter how much you plan. Sometimes the best research comes from getting your hands dirty and taking action. Make a plan for sure, do your research, but give yourself a deadline so you can stop planning and start acting. If we wait until we feel comfortable to take a risk, we will never leap. We are never fully ready for change. Taking risks is challenging because it is new and no amount of research can change that feeling. Act.

2. Take the first step.

There is never a right time to take a risk; there is just right now. You either jump or you stand by hoping and wishing. When I took the leap from a job I loved to start my own business, I knew the risks. But staying with what we know is just an illusion of safety.

Is there something you are not doing because you think you are not ready? Maybe you worry you won’t be good at it? Try it anyway. I bet you are more ready to step into your light than you think. You can always change course without regret. If your dream feels overwhelming and you don’t know where to start, just take one step forward. Break big dreams down into small steps. Have faith that the little steps will bring about big things for you.

Related: Top of Mind: The First Step Toward Achieving Your Goals

3. Don’t get attached to outcomes.

Running my own business certainly has its risks, but I feel more in control of my future today than I ever did working for someone else. Even during tough times, my husband and I joke that at least no one can fire us. We can tell ourselves we are safe and avoid choices that scare us, but when we do, we put something else at risk—such as a goal, an adventure, a dream or our potential.

Staying safe puts the life you want at risk. So direct your sail and see what happens. You’ll learn something important no matter what—but try not to get attached to any single outcome. This is difficult, but it’s also liberating. Sometimes we can’t see the true outcome of our actions. Sometimes our thinking is not big enough. Often our actions lead to unexpected benefits. Allow for that flexibility. Don’t limit yourself by becoming too attached to outcomes. Instead of controlling, try observing. Surrender to the unfolding of events in your life. You might love what’s behind curtain No. 2 or what Plan B has in store.

4. Your intuition is your compass.

Make time to listen to your inner voice. There is no way to take risk without first tapping into your instincts. There is so much we already know if we just stop and listen. Our inner voice, our intuition, can be a great compass if we decide to follow.

Find your own unique way to get guidance and follow it. Over time, I’ve learned to tune into my gut and make decisions quickly. We could overthink every decision we make, but hesitating only stalls your amazing future. Welcome the thought of making mistakes. If something doesn’t work out, you will do better next time. If it works out, it might be the best decision of your life. If you find yourself sitting on the sidelines, waiting for fear to pass or courage to arrive, realize there is no perfect time. The only time is now.

5. Be smart.

Taking a risk doesn’t mean gambling with your future. It means you follow your bliss but in a way that does not burn bridges.

If you leave a job to start a business, make sure you leave on good terms. Often the people around you will be your first clients. Save money if you are not sure about your income prospects. Take smart risks. Use smart grit. Don’t take risks you can’t recover from. I’m not about to climb Mount Everest because I don’t want to live with the consequences of that risk should things go wrong. Be smart while being bold.

Consider what you are trading if you let fear win out over risk. Living boldly means pursuing your passion despite setbacks and fears. There is nothing better than living an authentic, flexible, brave, scary, passion-filled life. Live a life you look forward to every day, not just on weekends and vacations. This life awaits you on the other side of risk.

Related: Top of Mind: 6 Tips for Smart Risk-Taking

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