May 3, 2023

Risk-taking: how to make scary decisions

Is it possible to run any kind of business or build a successful career without taking risks? Sure, some people can live their whole lives risk-free (as far as their job is concerned), but if that is not what you want, you will have to learn how to manage risk-taking. 

Who wants to run away from the uncertain? 

Risk is often defined as the possibility of something bad happening. We can hear terms like “statistically expected loss” or “uncertainty of an outcome”. It can be related to all aspects of life - relationships, parenthood, but in this blog post, I will focus on the professional side of things. In any situation, when it comes to our career, we face some uncertainty about the positive effects our decision will bring us, and we can face negative consequences as well. 

That is why we do an intuitive risk assessment before every decision we make. The natural response of our body when facing a risky situation is fear. Fear can be a positive thing because it can motivate us to do better, but it can also stop us from greatness if we let it paralyze us. Fear can activate acute stressors, which are positive and can make us stronger, but if we assess the situation wrong, or if we ignore the results of our assessment, it can activate chronic stressors, which (if we do nothing about it) can slowly kill us. Distinguishing between these two is what risk-taking is all about. When it comes to business, we don’t have to do all the assessing by ourselves, because there are professionals who have better knowledge and equipment to do it. Nevertheless, even with their help, we can adopt certain rituals that will help us to better control our risk assessment process.

Hormones to the rescue!

So what exactly happens in our brain? In a nutshell, when it detects stress (And who doesn’t feel stressed when they have to make something as important as career decisions?), our amygdala sends a signal to the hypothalamus and to the prefrontal cortex. The former will help release the hormones (especially cortisol) that will help the brain think clearly, they will increase heart rate and breathing and send energy to the important muscles, all of which will help us survive. The latter controls our thoughts and actions and helps us form an appropriate emotional response.

But obviously, our body needs some help from us as well. So, what can we do to be able to work with risks and make scary decisions? The first thing is: take a step back. You need to look at the situation at hand as objectively as possible and pulling yourself from the situation will help you to make your decision rationally without being controlled by emotions. And after that? Look at these tips and don’t let the scary decisions stop you from doing what you want:

1. Do I really want it?

You need to think about this - is it worth it? Is it something you really want, or are you taking this risk because of some other reason (you feel like you owe it to someone, you got manipulated into thinking that’s what you want)? This is the basic question and if your answer is yes, then you can move ahead! A good way to find out is visualisation. Imagine you have already achieved your goals and then notice how you feel about it. Think about who else wants you to make that particular decision and what their motivation might be. 

2. Avoid the risk

Not all risks need to be taken. Before you make your move, try to think if it is at all possible to change the situation, so that you could avoid the risk altogether. For example, if you want to start a new business, or go freelance, don’t leave your job straight away. You can cut your hours a little bit, so you have more time for your new venture. If you know that you’ll get enough money to cover all the necessary expenses, you can take your time and make such decisions for your business that are not driven by fear or stress and slowly build yourself up. 

3. Reduce the risk

Think about if there is anyone you can share the risks with. By teaming up with someone, you might not have the success all to yourself, but in case of failure, you will have someone on your side. With more people involved (or more businesses) you can also increase your risks and by that increase your outcome as well. For example: if you don’t feel enough oriented in certain aspects related to running a business, find yourself a partner, who knows what you don’t. I am sure you will find something you are better at than your partner and you can help each other out. 

4. Dream big, but think ahead

It is great to dream big, there are not enough dreamers, especially in the Czech Republic, but it’s always great to stay with one foot on the ground. Try thinking about what will happen if your plan doesn’t work. Prepare scenarios for all the possible outcomes, and if you fail, it won’t shock you as much because you will be ready, and therefore, you will bounce back much quicker. If you are starting a new project and you want to put all your energy into it, take a moment to think about what you’ll do, if it doesn’t work out, what your next step would be. Think about how much money you’re investing, how much money you will be left with, etc. 

5. Take care of your well being

This tip is mentioned as last, but it is definitely the most important. As long as you want to run a successful business, you want to move forward with your career and you want to feel happy and fulfilled, you need to take care of yourself. As mentioned before, risk-taking can and will produce stress in your body and you will be much better prepared to fight it if you are in a good physical and mental state. Sometimes you’ll feel like there is no time for that, but it is as important as looking for new clients or sending invoices. Don’t think of it as an extra activity for when you have time, incorporate it into your routine.

Risk-taking can make us stronger

All these tips should help you make difficult decisions and take risks without putting your body into a constant state of stress because we all know it is not healthy. Long-term effects of stress have been proven by scientists a long time ago and it is your job if you want to have a successful career, to think about your body and mind first. And by doing that, you are helping your career as well. 

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