Taking The Fear Out Of Taking Risks

How do you take calculated, bigger risks to further your career when you are in a profession that is all about mitigating risk?

This is the question we explored during my presentation to the DC Women’s Bar Association’s leadership team at their meeting last month.

This is a tough mindset issue for people like attorneys and accountants to overcome because they get paid to help their clients avoid risks that can lead to a lawsuit or audit. Because of the meticulousness required to do their jobs well, I’ve found that my clients in these fields are typically good at doing the initial research to take calculated risks, but they struggle to actually pull the trigger and take action.

The thing that stops them is the subconscious belief that if their risk isn’t successful, they will be a failure.

And that failure in turn is viewed by the brain as a “emotional survival threat” — the potential death of something valuable, like self esteem, credibility, etc — that it will try to protect you from at all costs.

The hallmark sign that a subconscious block is holding you back is when you know what you want to do, but you are struggling to actually do it.

For example, let’s say that you decide that the best way for you to advance your career is to switch firms. So you put “get an introduction to a partner at <x> firm” as the top priority on your to-do list.

But week after week, things keep “getting in the way” of spending the 10-20 minutes it would take to research who in your network help make a connection for you at the new firm.

In order to take bigger risks, you need to shift 2 things:

1- The subconscious belief that risk or potential failure is a survival threat.

2- The behavioral habits that are keeping you stuck in the status quo.

5 Practical Steps To Taking Bigger Risks To Achieve Your Goals

The best way to make those shifts is to engage your mind-body connection using these 5 steps:

1- Take a “feeling snapshot” of how it will feel to achieve your goal.

Setting aside your doubts about “if” it can happen, allow yourself to imagine that your goal has already happened. How you feel in your body? Sensations that feel open, light, free, or energizing are ones that you want to focus on.

2- Identify beliefs that fuel that the good feelings and inspire you to take action.

Your beliefs are like the address in a GPS. They are either going to lead you toward your goal or away from it. So ask yourself, “What do I need to believe in order to take action toward my goal?”

For example, if you want to switch firms, a belief of “I have niche experience that would benefit the firm” would help boost your confidence and reduce resistance to reaching out for an introduction from your network.

3- List the action steps necessary to make progress toward your goal.

You don’t have to know ALL the steps necessary to achieve your goal. The key here is to identify the any small step that will help you to make forward progress.

4- Decide on a reward you will give yourself after you take action.

This can be as simple as buying a new novel you’ve wanted to read, or taking a few hours off to go hiking. Small, frequent rewards to create a positive association in your brain with taking action, and make it more likely you will do it again.

5- Repeat steps 1-4 until you’ve achieved your goal.

Continuing to cycle through these steps will help you to stay connected to the reason you are taking the action that feels risky, and help you maintain momentum until you reach your goal.

In summary, these steps will help you utilize your mind-body connection to successfully take bigger risks in your career:

1- Take a “feelings snapshot” of achieving your goal.

2- Identify beliefs that fuel action toward your goal.

3- Take 1-3 small action steps toward your goal.

4- Reward yourself for taking the action steps.

5- Repeat 1-4 until you’ve achieved your goal.

What bigger risks are you going to take this year to achieve your goals?