The Power of Taking Risks

Ultra-marathon runner Dean Karnazes once said, “Any goal worth achieving involves an element of risk.” Those words apply to anyone trying to reach an objective. Yet, their meaning can be especially intimidating for those of us who shy away from taking risks. 

By Sally Benford

No doubt, there have been times in your admission and enrollment career when you’ve taken a risk on a student who may not have seemed like a great fit. You enrolled them, hoping for the best but, possibly, preparing for the worst. And perhaps you were surprised when you saw that student excel—trying out for a team, running for class office or by joining a campus club. That student grew and matured in ways they never realized were possible—and it all started by taking a risk. It’s no different for adults.

Everyone needs to accept a certain mount of risk in order to grow, whether in their personal life or in their profession. Here are five reasons why risk is worth it.

1. No risk it, no biscuit. 
This was a favorite saying of former NFL football coach Bruce Arians. Although many people can't relate to Arians’ experience of living large, there is truth in his saying. If you want to reach a high level of success, you’re going to have to take a few risks along the way. To grab that ring, you’ve got to reach for it.

2.When opportunity knocks Answer the door!
Your big chance may be on the other side. It’s easy to get into a comfort zone in your job. You know your colleagues, you know the systems and processes, you know your boss and his or her expectations. But are you growing? The simple answer is, probably not. It may be time to think about expanding your knowledge and experience and one way to do that is to be open to new opportunities. Yes, change is almost always uncomfortable, but if you don't learn, you don’t grow and if you don’t grow, it’s hard to move up to the next level.

3. Ask for more. 
Ok, so maybe you’re not ready to move into a new position, but you can still find ways to grow in your current job. Assess your duties and determine whether you’re being challenged or learning new information. If not, then it’s time to develop a plan. Consider approaching your boss about what you need to do to move ahead. Even if he or she doesn’t think you’re ready, at least you’ve shown them that you are interested in advancing in your career. Think about participating in opportunities that are a stretch for you and take you outside of your comfort zone—additional training, certification classes or volunteering for a special project

4. Learn to say no. 
Yes, saying no in terms of job duties can be risky, but it can also show that you know when your workload isn’t sustainable. In these days of belt-tightening, chances are you’ll have to take on some extra work, but you also have to be able to do your job well. When you’re honest about your ability to take on other duties that you know will compromise your day-to-day work and the organization’s objectives, you’re not being lazy, you’re being realistic. Assess the additional work, and then offer your boss practical solutions for managing it. You’ll come out looking like a hero.

5. Listen to your gut. Hopefully, you have a passion for what you do.
However, if the passion for your livelihood is waning, it may be time to consider another gig—and not just another job in the same field. Think about what you really love to do in your personal life and then figure out how you can make a living by doing just that. You may have to take baby steps, but if listen to your gut, you may just become the happiest person on the planet. And that’s a risk worth taking.