Intuitively, we know nothing ventured means nothing gained. So why do we still avoid venturing into the unknown? After all, that's the only thing a risk ever is: facing uncertainty. And with that, perhaps the first thing to understand about risk is that it's not one size fits all. Yours might be confessing to your crush you're in love (or at least in like-like). For someone else it may be applying to a new job or climbing a mountain. Or buying a different brand of shampoo.
The second thing to know about risk? It's a fundamental part of gaining a truly fulfilling, passionate life. Why? Can't you just get by hanging out in your comfort zone? Francis Lefkowitz writes in an article for the site Whole Living, "The ability to take calculated risks, it turns out, is actually an essential human trait, crucial to our development as a species and as individuals…Our risk-taking ancestors were the survivors, the daring ones who took chances to adapt to a changing environment." Plenty of people do live in a risk-free bubble, but the question is, what are they losing (or not) by doing so? Read on to find out.
Evolutionary psychologist and Ph.D. Daniel Kruger, from the University of Michigan, says that "pretty much everything we do has a certain degree of risk to it." That's right. We're all walking around with a false sense of safety in the first place. That isn't to freak you out, but to realize you shouldn't hold yourself back just because you don't know an outcome. Missed opportunities are worse than the false sense of security that staying "safe" brings. No doubt you can think of a time you took a plunge and it worked out for you. The same applies to your everyday life, dreams big and small.
Not all good things are material or quantifiable. Some seriously long term benefits for an amazing life can't be seen at all, only felt. The author of Positive Risk: How Smart Women Use Passion to Break Through Their Fears, Barbara Stoker, told Ladies Home Journal, "Self-confidence and resilience, that's the invisible reward." Being more self-confident and having a stronger disposition to handle uncertainty allows you to begin a cycle of facing it, which brings more opportunities, drawing your ideal life and people toward you like a magnet.
The Revelation of What You Really Desire
A wise person once said life is a process of elimination; it's not about picking the perfect thing for you at age 18 (what's your major?), instead it's a series of trying different things in order to find out what doesn't work, so you can find out what does. Yes, this can be a years-long process. But it's better to go through it than end up missing out on what you really want. You simply can't try different things without taking risks.
The Meaning of Life
Sounds deep? A little too deep? We're going there because it's true. The meaning of life, of course, is different for different people. Your individual risks and challenges bring a sense of purpose and meaning to your life that otherwise might be missing. If it takes bad to know good, dark to know light, then it takes risk to know purposeful success.
Learning to Cope
Psychologists agree the mental benefits of taking calculated risks far outweigh the lack thereof from not taking them. What kind of benefits? Aside from the aforementioned self-confidence, facing challenges gives you a framework to take on tough times. It's called developing healthy coping mechanisms. When you're going through an uncertain time, taking that risk, you'll find yourself reading self-help books, talking to friends, writing journal entries or anything else that works for you in terms of getting through it. You'll have these methods with you the rest of your life, but those who haven't taken any risks don't. And they're worse off for it.
It's fascinating what we value based on what we take for granted, which is so much more than we realize. When you're not sure if rent will be paid, you'll discover at least you have your friends or money for groceries. When you're not sure if you'll ever make up with your best friend, you'll realize how nice it is to have your mom to talk to in her absence. Gratitude is one thing we'll find during risky (uncertain) times that adds immeasurable value to our life experience.