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On Becoming a Risk Taker

Chapter 8: On Becoming a Risk Taker

Tools for Personal Growth

By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.


Risk-taking is Free

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool,

To weep is to risk appearing sentimental,

To reach out for another is to risk involvement,

To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self,

To place your ideas, your dreams before the crowd is to risk their loss,

To love is to risk not being loved in return,

To live is to risk dying,

To hope is to risk despair,

To try is to risk failure,

But risk must be taken,

Because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.

The person who risks nothing does nothing, has nothing and is nothing.

He may avoid suffering and sorrow,

But he simply cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love, live.

Chained by his certitudes, he is a slave, he has forfeited freedom.

Only a person who risks is free.

Author Unknown

What is risk taking?

Risk taking is:
  • Opening yourself to change.
  • It is the accepting of the need for change and it is taking the behavioral steps that will result in that change.
  • Honest appraisal of a situation in life requiring your action.
  • Understanding the risks involved in taking such action.
  • Weighing the pros and cons of taking the action.
  • Making a choice to take the required action.
  • Performing the action with full consciousness of the risks, pros and cons, and potential outcome.
  • Accepting the consequences of such action.
  • The ability to ignore your need for other's approval in order to take the most appropriate action for you.
  • The behavioral process involving the gamble that you may experience rejection from others for the actions you have chosen to take.
  • Pursuing the required actions despite the fear that it will affect others negatively, resulting in their efforts to make you feel guilty about taking such action.
  • Deciding to make a personal sacrifice of time, energy, ability, and knowledge as an investment to better your circumstances.
  • Hoping your circumstances will improve as a result of your personal sacrifice, but making it anyway.
  • The effort to be honest with yourself about your part in interpersonal problems, admitting that you have certain personal barriers that prevent the resolution of the problem.
  • Admitting to the other(s) involved what the barriers are and seeking assistance to address those barriers and resolve the problems.
  • Committing to become objective in pursuing a rational approach to a problem.
  • The willingness to identify irrational blocking beliefs, which hinder resolutions.
  • Opening yourself to be identified as being too subjective, too emotional, too obstructing, and too hindering in the resolution of your problem.
  • The willingness to accept honest, objective feedback about the need for you to change your own behavior.
  • The effort to be less subjective, less defensive, and more open in your search for truth, honesty, and sanity in resolving your problem.
  • The willingness to take a healing, forgiving, and forgetting attitude in pursuing the resolution of a conflict.
  • Opening yourself to be vulnerable, to being taken advantage of by the other in the conflict situation.
  • Demonstrating your trust in the other person's willingness to accept an honest, open, and upfront approach to resolving the conflict.
  • Now-oriented action.
  • Direct confrontation of a problem. It is the absence of procrastination and denial in dealing with a problem.
  • Responsible action taken to pursue the resolution of a problem.

What are some blocks to risk taking?

Road blocks to becoming a risk taker include:

  • Fear of rejection
  • Need for approval
  • Need to avoid guilt
  • Need to always be right
  • Need to know all the in's and out's of a situation
  • Need for certainty
  • Lack of belief in yourself and others
  • Fear of being incompetent
  • Desire to avoid conflict
  • Unresolved anger
  • Poor role modeling in family of origin
  • Fear of failure
  • Unwillingness to face problems honestly
  • Lack of assertiveness in protection of your own rights
  • Inability to take the responsibility for your own life
  • Unwillingness to accept possible negative consequences
  • Preferring to be unhappy, mired in your problem
  • Playing it safe
  • A need for security
  • Fear of hurting others
  • Rationalizing the lack of need for direct action
  • Denial that a problem exists, and action needs to be taken
  • Projecting the need for action onto others
  • Intellectualizing about a problem to avoid action
  • Exempting yourself of responsibility to resolve a problem
  • Relying on others to resolve your problems
  • Alcohol or drug abuse clouding thinking
  • Over emotional response to a problem
  • Humoring yourself and others to ignore the problem
  • Over concern for everybody but yourself
  • Fear of pain (no pain, no gain)
  • Absence of desire to change
  • Irrational belief that it is impossible to change the situation
  • A disregard for the rights of yourself and others
  • Confusion about your role in handling the problem
  • Lack of ownership of the problem
  • Over-sentimentality for the needs of others
  • Enjoying the sympathy you receive from others for the problem you face
  • Inability to let go of an old belief in a person or institution
  • A belief that life should always be fair

Not being a risk taker results in:

  • The problem or complaint going unresolved
  • Change being avoided
  • Maintenance of the status quo, even if it is negative
  • Others turning off to your complaints and pleas for help
  • No gains in life - stagnation
  • Over-dependence on others to take care of you
  • Unhappiness concerning your current status in life
  • Depression over your problems
  • Feelings of being stuck - immobilized
  • A chronic yes-but attitude
  • Lack of creativity in problem solving
  • The problems becoming exacerbated
  • Your rights and the rights of others being ignored
  • Experiencing burnout in facing your problems
  • Loss of support from others who have been assisting you in working on your problems
  • Loss of physical health
  • Loss of emotional health
  • Being isolated and ignored by others as you wallow in self-pity
  • Your blaming others for not helping to solve your problems
  • Your self-destructive, self-defeating behavior
Some steps to becoming an effective risk taker:


Step 1:  If you find that you are stuck in solving a problem, answer the following questions in your journal:
  • What is keeping me from solving this problem?
  • What is keeping me from taking any of the possible actions available to me to solve this problem?
  • How do I feel about choosing an action with an outcome of which I am uncertain?
  • What is it about which I am uncertain?
  • What is the worst possible thing that could happen if: I take the action needed? OR I do not take the action needed?
  • What are the blocks and barriers in me, keeping me from taking this uncertain action about which I am unsure?
  • What are the possible consequences of ignoring this problem?
  • What are the possible consequences of not taking the risks necessary?
  • What do I need right now to take the risks necessary?
  • What do I need in order to live with myself in case the action I take results in an even more negative situation than I currently have?


Step 2:  If you find that in answering the questions in Step 1 you are still unable to take a risk to solve your problem, use the Productive Problem Solving model, Chapter 3, of Tools for Relationships, a Tools for Coping Series book. In your journal, list the results of brainstorming:
  • Alternative, more appealing solutions to the ones you have already identified
  • Alternative consequences to not solving the problem
  • Reasons for not taking a risk over this issue
  • What your life would be like if you refused to take a risk on this issue


Step 3:  If answering the questions in Step 1 and brainstorming your four lists in Step 2 do not encourage you to take the necessary risks, proceed with the following steps:
  • Visualize a successful solution to the problem in which you not only took a risk but were also a winner.
  • Keep this visualization active in your mind for a 20 minute meditation period while you rest in a relaxed state.
  • Do this three times a day until you feel strong enough to take the risk.
At the end of each 20 minute visualization/meditation, reward yourself for being a successful risk taker and use these affirmations repeatedly:
  • I am a successful risk taker.
  • I can take risks in which everyone wins.
  • I will take the risks necessary to solve this problem: (list the current problems).
Continue with the visualizations and affirmations until you can take the necessary risks to resolve your problem.


As the changes begin to occur, remind yourself that this is only happening because of your risk-taking behavior.


Step 4:  If you are unable to take the risks after completing Steps 1, 2 and 3, identify the irrational beliefs and fears blocking your risk taking. Refute them using the Handling Irrational Beliefs'model, Chapter 2 of Tools for Personal Growth, a Tools for Coping Series book.


Step 5:  If you are still unable to take a risk after completing Steps 1 through 4, return to Step 1 and begin again.