Leading Ideas: The Gift of Risk

"Do you think the people who were trying to reach the top of Everest were not full of doubts? For a hundred years, people tried and lost their lives. Not even their dead bodies came back. But still, more people tried...risking...knowing that they may never come back. Why? Because it was worth it. Because in the very risk something is born inside you: the center. It is born only in the risk. That's the beauty of risk, the gift of risk." —Paraphrased from Osho (1931-1990), Indian Professor of Philosophy, Spiritual master

Six years ago, while coaching a client, I stumbled upon a very important question. We were talking about the idea of living with "no regrets" when I asked him, "When in your life did you feel most alive?" He reflected for a moment and told me about the summer he overcame his fear of water and learned to sail. When he finished he was grinning ear-to-ear. Subsequently, I have asked hundreds of people the same question and have been struck by the similarity of their answers. In particular I've noticed 3 themes. (1) Nearly everyone describes a scenario in which they pushed themselves out of their comfort zone and took risks. (2) The OUTCOME of taking the risk is rarely the main thrust of the story - it's usually the process of taking them that they remember most fondly. (3) When people finish their story, they've often got a big smile on their face.

Consider This:

The gift of risk-taking doesn't lie in what you achieve by risking - it lies in who you become as a result of the process. Confident. Engaged. Alive. Furthermore, it isn't something you do once in a while - it's an approach to life. Open. Exploratory. Daring. You know it when you let it slip out of your life. You feel stagnant, lethargic, bored. Risks have no shelf life - yesterday's risks are today's ego trip. Today is new. RE-ENGAGE. RE-RISK.

Try This:

1. Ask yourself the same question, "When in your life did you feel most alive?"
2. What were you doing? Why did it feel so good? Which of your core values were you living?
3. It's likely you were taking some risks at the time.
4. If you've haven't felt that alive in a while, what could you do to re-engage, to push past your comfort zone?
5. Remember, the gift of risk lies not in what you achieve, but in who you become by taking them.

Doug Sundheim • Executive Coach, New York City • dms@clarityconsulting.com

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