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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

How to Get Over Your Fear of Taking a Career Risk

When you’re considering taking a big career leap, it’s easy to be dissuaded by fear. Whether you’re thinking of starting your own business, making a major career change, or taking a leap of faith to pursue a passion, it’s normal to have doubts and hesitations about the uncertainty involved.

Your mind immediately jumps to all the potential risks and, imagining the vulnerability you’d feel after leaving familiarity behind, that fear gets the better of you. Challenging jobs, exciting new cities, and even unconventional hobbies get passed over because it’s hard to say, “I really don’t know how this will turn out, but I’ll give it my all anyway.”

But when was the last time you really thought about how risky the risk you’re taking is? While all of your concerns are legitimate, the magnitude of these hesitations is often blown out of proportion.

Just for kicks, let’s take a moment to reconsider how risky taking a year to try something bold, daring, and adventurous really is. Try this logic:

  • Let’s assume that the average person in the U.S. lives to be about 80 years old.
  • Then, let’s say it would take you about one year to figure out if this big bold idea of yours might have potential.
  • Now put the two together: One year out of 80 is 1/80, or 1.25% of your life.

That seems surprisingly small, right? In fact, when you think of it like this, nothing seems that risky anymore, even if you might not succeed in the end.

We can even take this a step further: Let’s say you did work night and day on your new startup idea or upped and moved to a foreign country. One of two things would happen: either it would be wildly successful and transform your life completely, or it would fail but you would still be rewarded with a life lesson or two.

When framed this way, any new venture, idea, or crazy thought you’re considering seems much less daunting, and that’s something powerful to think about.

This isn’t all to say that you shouldn’t take some precautious when you take a leap. Before you jump into the deep end, consider buffering your risk by setting some boundaries for yourself. One way to do this is to have a timeline. Set aside a certain number of months, and in those months, be relentless. Give it 120%. But if, at the end, there’s still no sign of promise, give yourself permission to move on. It also might be helpful to create a budget cutoff to stick to. Just because you have low opportunity cost in terms of time doesn’t mean you’ll have freedom from financial risk. Knowing how much you’re capable of spending from the beginning can help keep unforeseeable financial circumstances in check.

It takes some serious guts to put yourself out there to embrace the road not yet taken, especially if you have “safer” options that are close at hand. But by giving yourself practical constraints and looking at the risk spread across a lifetime, you might just give yourself the motivation you need to go for it.

Photo of risk courtesy of Shutterstock.

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