Saturday, August 19, 2006

Exercising Your Risk-Taking Muscles

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Even experienced risk-takers get "butterflies" every time they take on new challenges.

A great way to exercise your faith muscles is by doing things slightly different every day like taking an unfamiliar route home after work, asking your boss for a raise or if you're self employed, raising your fees. If you tend to be quiet in group meetings, gather the courage and speak up. Say something even if it’s just a follow up question.

When I’m with a group of people, I tend to get lost easily because the dynamics of a group conversation tend to be different than one-on-one talks. In a group situation, everyone is usually talking at once - it becomes impossible for me to keep up with them. There was a time in my life when I would tune them out whenever the conversation became impossible to follow. My line of thinking was something like, "Oh well, they aren't saying anything important anyway." I would just laugh and smile, pretending I knew what was happening.

Nowadays I'm a lot more proactive and I'll either turn to the person next to me and strike up a conversation or I'll pipe up and address the group as a whole with follow up question. For example, if everyone was laughing at a joke, I'll risk my neck by saying, "What was that joke again?" By doing that, I don't feel so left out. It also serves to get me back in sync with everyone else.

If on the other hand, if you are by nature an outspoken person with strong opinions, why not try listening more? Be still. Resist the temptation to make yourself sound important. Watch what other people have to say. You might be surprised to learn something new.

What about asking the waitress to take back your lukewarm coffee and replacing it? Some people would rather not rock the boat and risk other people’s criticism by appearing to be a "pain." You want a hot cup of coffee? It's certainly within your rights!

Just the other day, I was out having lunch with some friends from church and I was served a dish with stale bread. I don’t know about you but I like my bread nice and soft so I asked the waitress to replace it. In the past, I might not have bothered because I didn’t want everyone at the table to disapprove of me. Crazy, huh? Indeed! Who cares what they think?!?

As I mentioned before, I miss out a lot on what’s being said in group conversations (in case you forgot, I'm deaf). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to force myself to ask people to repeat themselves, putting myself at the risk of having others smirk, roll up their eyes or even sigh heavily (you can always tell when they do that because they heave their shoulders rather dramatically and appear to be taking incredibly deep breaths and blowing it all out). If they react that way, you don't want them around anyway.

All of these things are ways of building risk-taking muscles. No one wants to be rejected but so what if the other person gave you a dirty look or roll up their eyes? What’s the worst thing that can happen to you? Okay, your ego might get bruised or you might feel embarrassed but you’ll get over that, won’t you?

There's a book whose title I think is very appropriate here: "What Other People Think of You is None of Your Business." Pretty cool huh?

Consider the payoff that comes in the form of excitement and confidence because you risked your neck to do something you were afraid to do in the first place. People are more afraid to live their lives to the fullest than they are of dying!

Shaving my head in high school (for the swim championships) meant I would be bald the rest of the year and possibly ridiculed (I wasn’t – in fact, I gained more respect even though I didn't make the finals!). Going off to college meant I would live on my own for the first time (loved my newfound independence). Moving to New York City to work on Wall Street meant I had to change my living situation from suburban to city life (got used to it). Telling the VP at Merrill Lynch during an interview, "if you don't hire me, you will never know what I can do for this firm" opened the doors to incredible abundance. Quitting Wall Street to become a motivational speaker, author and pilot has led me to my wildest dreams. The list goes on.

Because I took risks little at a time and built them over a period of years, I've discovered that I was more than capable of surviving when I stepped out of my comfort zone. I've never had to worry about a roof over my head or putting food on the table.

If you decide to honor your life’s purpose or at least engage in a meaningful search for it, you will have to step outside your comfort zone.

Food for thought: Regardless of the decisions you're facing, remember risk- taking, unlike hope, is an action word. To develop it, you must exercise it regularly.
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