Why is it that we overestimate risk and underestimate our own ability to deal with that risk? All organisations need employees who are prepared to push themselves and take responsibility for developing themselves. But many of us are playing to not lose, rather than playing to win. Why is this?
Neurologically we are hardwired to overestimate risk. Being very careful about risk is a form of protection. It keeps us on our toes and makes us stop and think before reacting which is no bad thing. However, sometimes our reluctance to take on something which we perceive as ‘risky’ means we stick too rigidly with the status quo. And when we stick with the status quo, we’re not growing and when we’re not growing, we’re stagnating.The safe option in the short term may well be the wrong option for the longer term. In this case, thinking about the consequences of inaction is nearly as important as thinking about the risks associated with action.
Our reluctance to take risks can also be socially constructed. How many times have we suggested we do something differently and find those around us tutting or advising us that we are being risky and we end up feeling exposed and certain to fail?
So how do we develop the courage to confront risk?
Margie Warell, best selling author of Find Your Courage and Stop Playing Safe, says that individuals need to cultivate a courage mindset and makes a number of suggestions as to how to do so.
Firstly, having a sense of purpose helps to answer whether a risk is worth taking. If we are offered a new role which stretches us beyond our comfort zone, for instance, we need to ask ourselves how this role moves us towards our purpose? For the sake of what? Will the discomfort in the short term be worth it? If we can answer some of these questions then maybe we can make an assessment of whether the risk is worth taking on.
However, for many people, trying to find this sense of purpose can be intimidating and overwhelming.Most of us are not born with it and when we compare ourselves with Mother Teresa or even Bono, we feel woefully inadequate. Perhaps it’s better to ask ourselves “What is our purpose FOR NOW?”
Secondly, Warell also suggests surrounding ourselves with the right type of people who can support, encourage and champion us in our endeavours.
Thirdly she talks about taming our inner critic or the voices which inflate the risk and downplay our ability to deal with it. And if it helps, give these inner voices a name and recognise they serve a useful purpose – they are helping us pause and reflect on our decision making.
Finally, as nothing great is achieved in one big leap but rather, small courageous steps, Warell suggests cultivating our courage muscle by doing something which stretches us every day.
So, over the next 24 hours, ask yourself “what would I do if I was being courageous?” And do it. And in so doing be the sort of employee organisations need.