Take Risks Sensibly…In Measured Steps

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Are you a risk taker? Based on a little “test” by National Geographic on line which included a mix of questions such as: would I do drugs other than marijuana and alcohol, punch someone in the face, miss  work, or water ski, to name a few – I’m pretty timid. “You wear comfortable shoes, and you’ve got insurance for your insurance.” Yikes! Yet I have been called a risk taker by mere non National Geographic mortals because I have chosen to eke a living out of life sans having a job.

I’ve often wondered why so many people remain stuck. I’m not suggesting that everyone should leave their jobs and hang out their ‘new business’ shingles. I am talking about stuck as in not taking the necessary NEXT step – regardless of where they might be. In fact – I don’t think we view what we need to do next as a step. This is the problem.

We try to think through ALL the steps that we need to take. Figure everything out. We want certainty. We ask for absolute guarantees before we can move forward. We think and think things through in detail and before we know it – we’re in another year. At a recent presentation a colleague shared, in a similar discussion about NEXT steps, that “before you know it – another Old Year’s Night is here…and then your entire life becomes a series of Old Years Nights.” I read somewhere recently “Talking about WHAT you’re going to do uses energy from that dream. By talking you run the risk of spending ALL the energy you need to put the dream into ACTION.”

Sandro da Silva, a Dutch-Brazilian leadership and performance coach shares this perspective regarding NEXT steps: “Dilemmas are part of a leader’s routine. Should you follow your own gut feeling or should you listen to what others say? Should you offer the market what you want to sell or should you offer what the market says it wants? Should you tell your team members what to do or should you allow them to make their own decisions? As you can see, the questions posed are either-or questions, and choosing one option automatically excludes the other. If you approach your leadership challenges this way (many of us do), you are always confronted with the risk of choosing one option at the expense of the other; this evokes fear in you, and sometimes so much fear that it paralyzes you and disturbs you with anxiety and stress.”

Sandro explains that we only begin to profit when we can see that the two options are only extremes of a continuum. “People feel empowered when they discover that there are many more options, many more shades of grey (50 I have heard), between the black and white extremes they normally see.”

What about habits that keep us stuck? Prevent us from making any changes because we think it’s for the greater good. Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™ warns us that habit can sometimes masquerade as logic and safety. It wraps itself up in politically correct labels and best practices. Habit demands more and more data instead of acting NOW. Habits just may be anchoring you in the comfort zone of today. When we answer to “why we do this?” with “because we’ve always done it this way” then beware – habit might be steering your ship. I asked Kate to elaborate on a phrase she used ‘Habit embezzles the phrase empowerment’ in her blog post titled ‘Change Leaders: The Beloved Bully Is Stopping You!

She said “Leaders who feel deeply for their people, many times have difficulty leading change. They feel the pain of the employees as they struggle with the change. The result? Some of them pull back and stop leading the change and mislabel that “empowerment”. They have actually said to me, I believe in empowerment and don’t want to push. We then have a discussion about leading vs. pushing. Alternatively, employees who are resisting change do so under inappropriate label – “empowerment”. They often accuse leaders of being too authoritarian and not fostering empowerment.

In truth, habit is stopping the change: The leaders’ habits of wanting to be liked; the team members’ habits of the current way of working. Habit has thus embezzled the phrase empowerment to sustain the status quo.”

And what about the elephant in the room? We continue to live with issues that weigh down on us physically, emotionally and spiritually yet do nothing about them. We either avoid the elephant or we deny that the elephant exists People have been tolerating the issue for so long, you think – who are you to bring it up? So you say nothing. Julie Fuimano, MBA, BSN, RN, CSAC in a blog post aptly titled ‘Is there an elephant in the room?’ says “You’d rather not rock the boat. If you speak up, you are going to have to deal with the ramifications. If the person you are dealing with has a temper, has a need to be right, or is prone to becoming defensive, well, it’s just easier to continue to put up with whatever is bothering you and hope it goes away.”

None of these strategies are working are they? I didn’t think so! You will forever feel discomfort and malaise if you don’t DO something. Not doing turns into self flagellation which never ends in a good place and anchors you further into desperation and despair.

Stop needing to know and instead pay attention. Life is giving you clues ALL the time but if you’re so wrapped up in how things are SUPPOSED to be and in the need for ABSOLUTE certainty before you make your next move, you will miss those clues and instead end up just as this Ancient Chinese Proverb suggests “He who hesitates before each step spends his life on one leg.” Let me ask you this: “What step do you dare take NOW to finding out what’s on the other side?” My friend and colleague Dr. Marcia Reynolds, bestselling author of Wander Woman, suggested I add this “And once you get there – what will keep you from running away?”

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