If you’re not living the life you truly desire, what is it that keeps you from doing so? For many people, change represents a risk, and big change can represent an unacceptable degree of risk.
What kind of risk?
The risk that things will not work out the way we want them to. In other words, fear of the unknown. Whether we like our current reality or not, there’s a certain amount of security attached to doing things we’re familiar with.
On the other hand, trying something new in order to improve our life creates room for a lot of what-ifs. What if I try and fail? What if I invest my time and energy and things don’t work out. What if I commit to this new relationship and it falls apart? The phrase “what if” automatically implies that risk is involved.
Anytime we think about trying new ways to improve our lives, questions are going to arise. How we respond to those internal questions will determine whether we are willing to take risks or not.
Every new opportunity has some risk attached to it.
Whenever we venture outside of what’s familiar, we encounter the unknown. Why do some people get excited about trying new things, while others fear them? What’s the difference between excitement and fear?
Much depends on whether you are primarily pessimistic or optimistic. For a pessimist, the negative what-ifs represent a stronger influence on their perspective. The possibility that things will go wrong creates fearful expectation and an unacceptable degree of risk.
Courage or emotional anchors
Some might say that this is a lack of courage, but that’s not entirely accurate. It really has more to do with the emotional anchors related to risk. When past efforts have failed to produce the desired result, it’s easy to develop a response pattern based on past performance. Internally, our emotional dialogue says, “Nothing like this has ever worked out before, why should I risk another failure?”
On the other hand, the optimist may have a history of successes, which helps him to maintain a positive perspective. He associates trying new things with producing exciting results. For the optimist there is more opportunity than risk associated with the unknown. This does not mean that he is more courageous than the pessimist. It just means that his emotional anchors are different. His internal dialogue says, “every time I try something new it turns out great, why should this be any different?”
Changing our response patterns
So, are we to conclude that our past performance will always dictate our view of the unknown? Can we change our viewpoint from pessimistic to optimistic?
We certainly can, all we need to do is change our perspective. Is the glass half full or half empty? It depends on which half you focus on. Does trying something new represent too much of a risk, or is it an exciting opportunity? Again, It depends on what you focus on.
If you focus on the opportunity, it will expand. You will begin to notice new possibilities that you never saw before. The more you focus on those possibilities the more optimistic you will become. Eventually, acceptable levels of risk will feel like a new opportunity.
Being optimistic does not remove the risk
Remember, every opportunity has risk involved. It’s not about removing the risk; it’s a matter of changing our perspective. We don’t want to deny that there’s risk involved. But we don’t want to see the risk as a fearful expectation of failure or loss either. Blind optimism is no better than paralyzing pessimism.
We need to achieve balance in our view of risk, while still maintaining a positive perspective. If our past efforts have not produced the desired result, then we should examine why. There’s always a reason. Once we understand the reason, we can take steps to change the results we produce.
The power of logic
Asking why something happened introduces logic into the equation. This is a great way to destabilize unwanted emotional anchors. The more you ask why, the less emotionally rooted the whole experience becomes. Past experiences do not determine future results. Response patterns can be changed. Used correctly, logic can help us to achieve that.
Our emotions are among our most powerful resource. Learning to use reason and logic to direct that power gives us the best possible results and the most balanced view of risk.
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