Employee taking a professional risk and jumping to the other sideTaking healthy risks – both personally and professionally – can take you to places you never thought possible. Are you ready to go?

Whether you call it stretching yourself, getting out of your comfort zone, or taking risks, pushing yourself to do new things can be really scary. It’s easy to say, “Oh, I’ll think about that next year – at a better time,” or convince yourself you just can’t do it … whatever it is.

But what if the very thing that scares you the most is exactly what you need to do in order to get you where you want to go? What if, by facing those fears and taking a risk or two, you could transform your life into something extraordinary? Would it be worth it?

The joy of professional risk

I was talking with the CEO of an international organization the other day, and during the course of conversation we dove into a philosophical discussion. Deb was sharing some of the most memorable experiences of her career, and then I asked, “What has been the most rewarding?”

She began to thoughtfully describe a recent trip to the UK, where she visited the area where she once lived. “When I was promoted and transferred overseas years ago, I was a single mother of two and scared to death to make the move on my own,” she said. “But I also knew that I loved my work, and I wanted to get to the next level in my career.”

So when Deb recently walked along the streets of her past once again, she felt so grateful that, despite the fear and the challenges, she had taken the leap and relocated. As it turns out, it was one of the most rewarding, rich experiences of her life and career. Since then, she has lived in two other cities outside the US.
“That move was incredibly challenging, but I did it!” she said. “And the experience prepared me for the next move, and then the next one after that. Taking that risk is one of the reasons why my career is thriving today.”

Isn’t it interesting that some of scariest decisions we make and the hardest challenges we face often end up being the most rewarding? When we are willing to venture outside that comfort zone and stretch ourselves to explore new – and often scary – things, we become better versions of who we are.

Why taking risks is good

The truth of the matter is that taking healthy risks can lead the kind of life you never dreamed of. Because when you push yourself – and dare to challenge the status quo – you can discover talents, skills, abilities and interests that enrich your life in every way. In addition, taking risks can help you:

Learn how to set clear goals and follow through with them.
Find the confidence that comes with making things happen (instead of letting things happen to you).
Develop a higher level of inner strength that comes with proactivity and empowerment.
Develop new ideas and innovations.
Create fresh opportunities and amazing experiences.
Find and hone your strengths and overcome fears.
Feel the thrill of coming alive.

The pain and reward of personal risk

I recently had lunch with a dear friend of mine, and we were catching up and sharing personal stories, as we always do. Christine began reflecting on the past year, as she was approaching a momentous anniversary. Almost one year ago, she made the excruciating decision to leave her husband, ask for a divorce, and create a new home for herself and her two teenagers.

I vividly remember so many of the conversations we had as she was coping with this painful process. From the moment she opened up about her marital unhappiness, to the first day I visited her in her new townhome filled with moving boxes, sparse walls and lots of love, the journey included everything from anger, hurt, rage and tears to laughter, rediscovery, revelations and lots of uncertainty.

“The decision to make this change in my life was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” she said. “I had no idea how I would pay my bills, or how my children would adjust. I had lots of well-intentioned friends caution me about the financial setbacks of divorce, and to make matters worse, there were significant faith-based expectations from my ex-husband and in-laws that had me grappling with guilt, fear and even shame.”

But as Christine reflected, she was calm, confident and grateful. “It wasn’t easy. And if I knew then what I know now, I could have easily talked myself into just staying and enduring a situation that had me feeling completely dead inside. But I did it – one small step by another small step at a time. I had some very low days, but they became fewer and fewer as time went on, and now I’m so proud of myself and the life I have built with my kids. I have nothing but hope and excitement as I look forward to discovering what’s ahead of me.”

Are you a risk-taker?

Helen Keller once said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” My own interpretation of that as it relates to this topic is: Be afraid but do it anyway.
While I’ve shared just two examples, I know there are countless stories out there that involve risk and reward. So we’d love to know about yours. What kinds of risks have you taken, and what happened as a result of them? What lessons did you learn, and how did they transform or shape who you are today? Please tell us about them below.


Most leaders struggle with disengagement, dysfunction, and non-productive behaviors with their teams. We deliver training that develops leaders and engages teams to increase your company results.