The Internal Consequences of Taking a Risk, Even a Successful One

A plump happy muscle next to a thin unhappy muscle showing contraction, one of the internal consequences of taking a risk

You’ve carefully considered all the consequences of taking a risk. You’ve evaluated what could go wrong and go right. You’ve gotten deeply in touch with your “why” for taking a risk.

You decided to go for it. You took the risk, and it was great! You succeeded beyond what you imagined, and you experienced all the joy of pushing your boundaries and expanding your capabilities.

And then the whiplash sets in.

Whiplash? What whiplash?

I’ve observed that when we take a big risk, even if it’s successful, there’s a rebound effect that catches up with us hours or even days after our initial success. When the euphoria wears off and you suddenly become aware of the new reality you’ve created.

And your body/nervous system says, “What the heck have you done?

I’ve seen this phenomenon in myself. I’ve watched it happen to my clients. I’ve talked to other women leaders about their experiences in the aftermath of taking a risk. It’s pretty much unanimous.

There’s definitely a moment, perhaps two or three, when you realize what you have done and you start to say “Uh oh”.

Here are some of the symptoms of risk-taking whiplash:

  • You start to second-guess yourself. Was it really successful? Did I do as well as I thought? Now what are people going to expect from me? Can I do it again?
  • You become overly tired and lethargic.
  • You get physically ill.
  • You have intense cravings for junk food, alcohol, or sugar.
  • You lose your motivation.

Then, you start thinking that you really don’t want to take that risk again or continue along the path that the risk was taking you on.

To be clear, I’m talking about taking a strategic risk, not being reckless. It’s 100% okay to reconsider if you’ve been reckless.

It’s also perfectly normal to have risk-taking whiplash, even if you’ve been very deliberate and calculated in taking your risk.

Why? Because your nervous system, your body, your physiology is used to things being a certain way. Maybe it’s used to little risks. Maybe it’s used to no risks. It doesn’t matter.

When you introduce a new paradigm in your life, even if it’s a good one, it takes a little time for all your internal systems to adjust and get on board.

That’s okay. Really. The absolutely last thing you want to do when the whiplash occurs is to start judging yourself for it. That will only make it worse. I promise.

These are the things you should do when the risk-taking whiplash sets in:

  • Expect it. Know that it’s normal.
  • Be gentle with yourself.
  • Get some extra sleep.
  • Eat healthy foods, even if you do give in to a few of the cravings.
  • Reconnect with your “why”. This is huge. Remind yourself frequently why you took the risk. Remember that love overcomes fear and anxiety.
  • Maintain your positive mindset.
  • Affirm your success – repeatedly. (And if you failed, affirm your learnings.)
  • Continue taking small steps along the path that taking the risk created. Don’t push yourself too hard, but don’t allow the contraction to take hold.
  • Set a goal for the next risk, the next expansion. (This is teaching your internal systems that you’re not going to stop.)

If you don’t feed it, the whiplash will pass. Honor it. Acknowledge it. But don’t feed it.

Your physiology will adapt. It will get used to the “new normal”. We’re much more resilient than we give ourselves credit for.

Taking risks is how we grow. Stepping outside our comfort zones does make us stronger. This is how we make our dreams a reality and create meaningful and fulfilling lives.

Don’t let the whiplash derail you. Yes, it’s one of the consequences of taking a risk, but it’s absolutely one you can manage as long as you’re prepared.

And now you are.


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