10 Benefits of Positive Risk-Taking

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: January 18, 2012

The only way to truly get the life you want is by taking positive risks and planning a strategy for doing so.

"Unlike negative risks, which are typically impulsive and emotionally driven, positive risks are calculated," says Gail McMeekin, a nationally recognized creativity and HR career coach (www.creativesuccess.com). "You must think them through, and anticipate what could happen,  before you jump."

Choosing to find a mentor to help accelerate your career is one way of taking a positive risk.  Develop “a road map” by first deciding if you want the mentor to be someone inside the company or an outside coach.  Know what style works best for you, someone who is empathetic or a guide who will more directly challenge you.

While reaching out in new ways initially can be unnerving, here are 10 benefits of taking a calculated risk:

By going back to school or getting involved in a new professional association, for example, you challenge yourself in new ways.  Realize you need to risk being a novice when learning something new. Trepidation diminishes when you choose the right people with whom to associate.  "Networking is hard enough without being in a group of people who aren’t friendly," McMeekin notes.  "Go to a few meetings, and keep exploring, until you find the right group for you."

Look to see what is being valued in your organization and prioritized by management. Then, propose new projects you can do in alignment with these goals.  One young manager, who knew the company she was working for was planning layoffs, developed a PR project outside the scope of her previous abilities and job description. As a result, her job was saved when other positions were cut.

To move beyond our internal demons, it helps to look at "the big picture."  Tune into what you really want on multiple levels—mind, body and spirit.   Thinking too small can keep you stuck in fear.

Whether it involves hang gliding, heading a department or changing careers, new desires for growth are continually “calling?to you. Are you a techie who really wants to be an interior designer? Experiment with your options. Take a class. Go to a related event. A would-be dancer may benefit from taking a salsa lesson.

By taking a risk, you learn: A) Is it the life you really want? B) If it is the life you want, the steps you need to take show up. A woman who had been trying to produce her first book unexpectedly met an owner of a publishing company through Linked In.

If you train yourself to take small risks, and continue building upon them each week, you change your emotional state away from fear to getting focused in a new direction. Passion also eclipses fear. Love what you are aiming to do.

By taking risks in modeling those who are doing the meaningful work you seek, you  can prepare for a longer-term goal.  If you want to be manager, for example, observe those qualities in other managers that you want to instill in yourself.  Take some management development courses, read books, and review related online websites.

In taking risks that heighten your leadership skills, you are often stretching the boundaries of your job description.  Volunteering for committees, facilitating training programs, and initiating new product launches are a few ways to go above and beyond to practice your leadership abilities. 

Risks build self-confidence and self-respect, helping you feel stronger as a person and gain the courage to continue taking larger and more positive risks. "Keep in mind that failure is part of the process, too." McMeekin says.  "Learn to frame risks.  They are always an experiment, but you learn something along the way.  If you don’t beat up on yourself when they don’t work out, they allow you to get more daring."

The payoff of successfully risking is getting what you want, whether it is more fulfilling work, a pay raise and promotion, or the satisfaction of completing a new goal. To increase your success at risking, surround yourself with supportive people who are knowledgeable and cheer you on beyond the status quo.