Five Steps to Accepting Risk

I’ve taken many risks in my life—personal and professional. I’ve left jobs that no longer felt “right” even when I didn’t know what was next. I’ve moved halfway around the world to explore a dream, leaving everything and everyone I knew behind, because it was the right thing to do.
It was never “easy” to take these risks but it felt necessary from a very deep part of myself. In the early years, my risk-taking was driven somewhat by desperation to find something that was missing or to fix myself. Now, experience has shown me that I can take risks in a grounded and intentional way, driven by my values and purpose. The most important steps in risk-taking are those that happen internally, preparing for the risk.

What does this have to do with coaching? Everything. We ask our clients everyday to do things that may “feel” risky, things that they have never done before, things that will challenge the status quo, that may be dangerous or daunting. They balk, they hesitate, they question themselves. The Inner Critic or Protectors come out. Yet, when the client listens to the yearning deep inside themselves, listens to the voice of their True Self, then they know what they have to do.
Here are five ways you can help your client, and yourself, begin to get more comfortable with risk by changing how you think about it.
1. Question your relationship with comfort
There’s a reason they call it the “Comfort Zone;” it’s comfortable! Yet growth and innovation occur when you venture beyond your comfort zone and take risks. Ask yourself: How willing am I to be uncomfortable for the sake of growth? What can I do to increase my tolerance for risk and, possibly, failure?
2. Reframe your thinking
Some leaders avoid risks because they fear it will be too hard and they will fail. But most times, the risk isn’t that hard; it’s simply new—a behavior or action you haven’t tried yet. Think of risk as “new” rather than “difficult” or “scary,” and notice how that attitude informs you.
3. Trust your gut, doubt your doubt
Many leaders intuitively know which risks to take, but give too much attention to their doubts. Instead, get curious about the possibilities. “How will my organization and those around me benefit from my courage? What kind of leader will I become? What can be achieved?”
4. Get out of your head and into action
Do you believe that, once you feel confident, you’ll take risks? Practice the reverse instead. Confidence is built through action, not waiting. While it’s important to be sensitive to timing and calculate your risks, you’re more likely to cultivate genuine confidence by taking steps forward, large or small, rather than waiting to feel it first.
5. Ask for help
Look at successful risk takers around you. Which of their qualities would enhance your risk-taking style? Seek mentors who will support you and be open to their feedback. Pay it forward by encouraging others to become more comfortable with risk.

About the author:
Mary Kuentz came to coaching after a successful career in marketing. After just one session at Leadership that Works, she knew that coaching was her calling. Mary continues to witness the transformation she experienced herself in her coaching and coach training work. In addition to leading courses for Leadership that Works, Mary is a leadership coach in the Omidyar Fellows program in Hawaii, working with emerging leaders in the government, for-profit and non-profit sectors who are tackling tough problems in the state and around the globe. She supports leadership in all its forms.
This article was previously published in Hawaii Business Magazine

Excerpt from Coaching for Transformation by Lasley, Kellogg, Michaels and Brown.

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