Is Risk-Taking Good or Bad?

Karen Ann Bulluck on a Suspension Bridge in a forest risk-taking

I guess that depends on who you are talking to, right? Everybody has a different perspective on whether risk-taking is good or bad.

If you asked my parents, I think they would say, in general, that risk-taking is bad. Yet, my brother and I both own our own businesses, which our parents both thought was risky. Go figure.

The reality is that life is risky. You are taking risks no matter what you do. In fact, the biggest risk is often inaction rather than action.

So why does risk-taking get such a bad name? Because many people associate risk-taking with recklessness. And it’s not. Risky is not reckless.

Recklessness is doing things carelessly, without forethought, without concern for the consequences. Recklessness is starting a new business without a plan. Recklessness is quitting your job without having a rainy-day fund. Recklessness is riding your motorcycle too fast in the rain.

When I talk about risk-taking, I’m not talking about that!

What risk-taking is:

  • Getting out of your comfort zone.
  • Doing something you’ve never done before.
  • Doing things that seem scary or threatening.
  • Challenging the status quo.
  • Speaking up when no one else is.
  • Being authentic and vulnerable.
  • Taking on the so-called neighborhood bully.
In short, risk-taking is what allows us to make an impact on our world.

And risk-taking requires facing our fears.

Does that mean facing every fear we have? Emphatically no. It means facing the fears that are standing in your way.

In a recent episode of “Are You Brave Enough?”, I talked about the many people at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park who were facing their fear of heights to enjoy the beauty and grandeur of the temperate rainforest and deep chasm in North Vancouver, BC.

But I also pointed out that sometimes we can and should draw boundaries about what fears we face. For instance, I’m afraid of heights myself, BUT only when there is no barrier between me and the height. The suspension bridges in the park provided high, safe railings, so my fear of heights was barely triggered.

If there had been no railings, it would have been a different story for me.

Honestly, I would have said no to taking that risk. I decided a while ago that facing that particular fear of heights wasn’t worth the time and effort because it really doesn’t have a major impact on my life or what I want to accomplish. In other words, it’s not stopping me from making an impact on the world – or my enjoyment of it – so I don’t need to take the risk. It’s a boundary. For me, it’s a “bad” risk.

That’s another thing. Judging risk-taking as “good” or “bad” in the first place. It’s not either.

Risk-taking is essential for us to create meaningful and fulfilling lives.

Risk-taking is necessary for us to make an impact because by definition, making an impact means doing something different, seeing things differently, changing ourselves, and challenging others to change.

Leaders need to take risks. Leaders also need to create space for others to take risks. That’s how we grow. That’s how organizations grow.

If you’re not taking risks, you’re not growing.

And that’s okay. Sometimes. We all need to step back, evaluate, rest, and refresh. Sometimes.

So, what about you? Do you think risk-taking is good or bad? I’d love to hear the stories about risk-taking in your life.

I’m Karen Ann Bulluck, founder of Daring to TranscendTM. I guide women leaders who feel stuck, stalled, or unappreciated to take more risks so that they can make a bigger impact in their work and beyond.

If you want to explore taking more risks, I have two open slots for one-on-one coaching. Contact me today to apply!


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