Stop playing it safe in your job

When you see risk, do you back away?

If so, what does it cost you to play it safe?

The price of security

Given the choice between a sure thing and a higher risk/greater reward alternative, most of us choose what’s safe. We hesitate to put ourselves or our careers on the line. We go with the flow and say “it’s not so bad the way things are.” We consider what could go wrong and let potential consequences stop us, even if they’re not probable. We come up with excuses.

In our hesitation to travel outside our comfort zone, we forget that the real risk might be things staying the same, and having our work lives stagnate or grow smaller, rather than larger. We sell ourselves out, underestimating our ability to handle what might happen if the risk brings challenges our way.

Perhaps you need to rethink risk. After all, if you always travel the sure road, where does it lead you? In a couple of years will you wish you’d taken more chances, trusted more in yourself and settled less often? Exhilaration and caution don’t ride the same horse.

Unlock the power of courage

Most of us know what we want to do — yet we hesitate. What happens when you fear risk too much to move forward? Fear erodes confidence. Hesitation amplifies worry. If you allow fear to set up residence in your brain, it not only moves in, it owns you.

What needs to happen for you to pursue a dream you’ve back-burnered, to say “yes” to what inspires you even if it’s slightly outside your reach? In “Beating the Workplace Bully,” I wrote “think what a brave person would do and become that brave person.” The outcome you gain if you do this: You grow your courage by thinking your way through risk.

But what if you fail? 

Before you take a risk, consider the worst outcomes that might happen. Then, assess their likelihood and plan what you’ll do if the worst happened and how you’ll shift the odds in your favor. You’ve just lessened the risk.

Further, when you take risks that don’t work out, you learn. As a result, you’re wiser and better. Never let past failure stop you, because once you learn from your mistakes, you’re no longer the same person — and armed with your new knowledge you’re more likely to succeed in the future. Viewed this way, playing it safe doesn’t make you more secure, it leaves you less safe.

Risk allows you to stretch and grow, to discover new things about yourself. Taking risks develops your strength and talents and teaches you to conquer your fear.

Author of your life

If you believe your voice and actions matter and you’d like to tell the truth as you see it, isn’t it time to speak up more? To say what needs to be said and to do what can only be done by you?

What’s lost if you don’t? Your voice and presence in the world and your opportunity to change things for the better.

More importantly, you lose what you could become. You write the story of your work life with the actions and risks you take or let pass by. Every decision you make either expands opportunities or shrinks what’s ahead in your career. When you close the door on your career, do you want your legacy to be one of impact or low risk/low reward? Don’t regret not trying. The ball is in your court.

© Dr. Lynne Curry is author of ” Beating the Workplace Bully” and ” Solutions” as well as owner of the management/HR consulting/training firm   The Growth Company Inc. Follow her on Twitter  @lynnecury10 or at www.bullywhisperer.com

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