How to Take Intelligent Risks in the Pursuit of Your Goals

The most rewarding things you do in life are often the ones that look like they cannot be done. – Arnold Palmer

What Does Risk-taking Entail?

Risk-taking is the act of sacrificing your personal emotions, energy, time and/or money to help you improve your circumstances, or to simply take advantage of opportunities that life presents you with. It’s the act of stretching your comfort zone and capabilities by exposing yourself to uncertainty and possible change.

The Pitfalls of Risk-taking

When you take risks you open yourself up to a plethora of possible outcomes — some of which may not be to your liking.

Risk-taking can expose you to potential loss, failure, embarrassment, rejection, criticism, and the possibility of getting hurt. All of these outcomes can seem rather painful and disheartening, however, you must keep in mind that every great feat that has ever been achieved in human history required some kind of risk. In fact, many times these courageous people would often fail, embarrass themselves, make mistakes, open themselves up to criticism and rejection, and yet they would still keep fighting. Eventually, the risks paid off and they reaped the tremendous rewards that risk-taking brought forth into their lives.

When You Risk Consistently You Get…

There are a wide variety of benefits and advantages that come to those who take risks on a consistent basis throughout their lives. For starters, these people expose themselves to new life experiences, opportunities, ideas and skills. All these things add tremendously to the value of living and to creative self-expression.

The moment you decide to become more of a risk-taker is the moment you take your first steps that will help you break through psychological walls and overcome your debilitating fears.

Risk-taking is a state of proactive living where you are constantly growing and developing yourself on many different levels every single day. And because you’re growing, you are therefore truly living and experiencing life to the fullest.

In the end, you are more likely to regret the risks you didn’t take, than the ones you did.

The Value of Risk Taking

Roadblocks to Risk-taking

If you are hesitant to take risks in any area of your life, then in all likelihood you are running into one or more of the following risk-taking roadblocks:


The fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of criticism, fear of embarrassment, fear of success, fear of making mistakes, and a plethora of other fears are getting in your way and causing you to hesitate and refrain from taking risks.

Sometimes the seemingly insignificant fear of not wanting to hurt others can become a significantly debilitating fear when it comes to risk-taking. You don’t want to take risks because you feel that it might hurt other people or go against their expectations and/or beliefs. The moment you allow other people to dictate your choices and decisions is the moment you are putting your life and fate into someone else’s hands — for better or worse.

Irrational Needs

Your need for certainty; need for approval; need to play it safe; need to avoid feeling guilty, and need to rationalize and make excuses are all holding you back from living the life you desire to live.

All of these needs are in your head. You don’t need to play it safe all the time. You don’t need to try avoiding guilt. Guilt can actually help and rally you to make better choices and decisions in the future. And oftentimes the guilt you will feel after taking a risk pales in comparison to the regret you would feel if you didn’t take a risk in the first place.

When it comes to your needs it’s all a balancing act. You don’t always need to take risks, however, you do always need to take the right kinds of risks at the right time. Playing it safe and making excuses for your choices, decisions and actions often won’t pay off for you in the long-run.

Irrational Habits

Habits are so deeply ingrained in your psyche that you often don’t realize the power that they have over your choices, decisions, and actions. When it comes to risk-taking, there are certain habits that will naturally veer you away from taking the risks that are necessary to improve your life:

Relying on Others

The habit of relying on other people to solve your problems takes all responsibility away from your hands. In such instances, it’s easy to just sit back and allow other people to do all the risk-taking for you. However, if things don’t turn out as expected, it’s also easy to blame others and make excuses for unsavory outcomes. Don’t ever give away your power to transform your life. Playing it safely behind other people’s decisions and actions will often not work in your favor, and certainly, will not provide you with the momentum you need to live your life with purpose.


The habit of perfectionism will eat you alive without you even knowing about it. When you’re indulging in the habit of perfectionism you will become lost in the details, and the details will prevent you from taking the necessary risks that will help you to take advantage of time-sensitive opportunities that will come your way.


The habit of procrastination is the twin sister of perfectionism. Procrastination will tell you that it’s just not the right time, that you must wait, and that you’re not ready. This is all a lie. You are resourceful, and oftentimes some action (a little risk) is better than no action at all — whether you’re ready or not.

Over-thinking Consequences

The habit of over-thinking consequences is another form of procrastination that will bog you down in the details and lead to hesitation.

Wanting Guaranteed Results

The habit of wanting guaranteed results. When it comes to risk-taking, there are no guaranteed results. It’s a risk. If you want guaranteed results, then don’t do anything at all. However, keep in mind that not doing anything may guarantee you get absolutely nothing, and your life will spiral into a deep dark abyss of unfulfilled dreams that never saw the light of day.


Denying that problems exist or showing no willingness to take responsibility for problems will prevent you from taking risks.

To overcome problems you need to take risks, however, to take risks you must first accept that you have problems and that you will take responsibility for solving them.

Begin today by seeing your life as a giant puzzle that you need to piece together. Putting this puzzle together will take effort and some risk. If you’re willing to take responsibility for it, then you will reap the benefits of your actions.

You’re Lacking Something

Not showing any willingness to take risks may, in the end, come down to the fact that you simply lack self-confidence or belief in your own abilities. Or it may even come down to a lack of desire for change.

If you lack confidence, then work on boosting your confidence so that you can develop the courage to make the tough decisions that will get you ahead in life.

If you lack a desire to change, then this is an indication that your life is stagnating. If that’s the case, you simply don’t have enough reasons or motivation to make changes in your life that will encourage you to take the risks necessary that will help you improve your life for the better.

If this sounds like you, then you must find reasons to change — reasons to take more risks and chances. Ask yourself:

Why must I make changes to my life right now?

Why is this important?

Why do I want this?

What will happen if I don’t make these changes?

What could my life be like if I do make these changes?

Roadblocks to Risk Taking

Your Risk Assessment Guide

When it comes to risk-taking it’s important that you don’t take silly risks that create more problems than opportunities. Risk-taking requires that you make sensible choices that will help you to maximize your outcomes and take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. As such, here is a five-step process that will help you to take more sensible and calculated risks:

Step 1: Identify What You Want to Achieve

First, you must think about what it is you want to do or achieve.

Once you have clarified what you want, now it’s time to understand your outcomes and the consequences of these outcomes in your life. Ask yourself:

If I do this, what potential outcomes could I expect?

What will I potentially gain long-term by taking this risk?

What could I potentially lose?

When you take risks, you will often find that you often lose nothing or very little. In fact, if you lose anything it will most likely be superficial in nature. However, at the same time, it’s important that you don’t get caught up with holding onto things you might potentially lose. Instead focus on what could be gained, and work towards attaining those outcomes.

Next, you must consider the obstacles that stand between you and your desired outcome. Ask yourself:

What stands in my way?

How will I overcome this obstacle?

Now that you have a clear understanding of the potential obstacles you might face, your next step is to look at other areas of uncertainty that you might need to tackle. Ask yourself:

What am I still uncertain about?

What’s the worst that could happen?

Do I really have anything to lose?

Are the rewards worth the risk I’m about to take?

Is this an intelligent risk to take?

Step 2: Assess Lessons Learned

Before you jump into this decision you are about to make, it’s important to remember any lessons from your past that you might be able to bring forward to help you make the best decision in the present moment. Ask yourself:

Have I done this before?

How did thing turn out?

How have others faired?

What mistakes were made?

What can I learn from this?

If this is something new that you haven’t done before, then take lessons from the past that are most relevant that can potentially be applied to this situation. Remember that there are always lessons you learned in other areas of life that can help you with your present decisions.

Step 3: Develop a Plan of Action

Create a plan of action and a time-frame for the results that you are expecting to realize by taking this risk.

When it comes to outlining a plan of action, it’s important to define your timing, the resources and knowledge that you might require, possible negative outcomes and the success that you are likely to achieve. Ask yourself:

What is the best time to take this risk?

How will I handle any negative consequences or outcomes of my actions?

What specifically has to happen for this to succeed?

Step 4: Decide Whether Risk is Worth Taking

You’ve completed all the analysis, and have decided that this is a risk that is worth taking. This is no time to hesitate. Take action using small steps to help build your confidence — especially important if this is something you are doing for the very first time.

Step 5: Evaluate Your Outcomes and Feelings

Having completed your action steps, it’s now time to evaluate your outcomes and feelings. Even if things didn’t go to plan, you can use this evaluation period to make better plans for the future.

Remember that your risks will not always pan out as expected. In fact, at times you might end up falling flat on your face. You will fail, you will make mistakes, however always keep in mind that the long-term rewards of taking this risk often far outweigh the long-term pain and regret you will experience if you decide not to take this risk. Ask yourself:

What have I learned from this experience?

How can I use this experience to help improve my future results?

Risk Taking Assessment mind map

10 Suggestions for Taking Intelligent Risks

Here are some valuable tips and suggestions that will help you to take smarter and better risks throughout your life:

Transform Your Perspective

It’s important that you view the act of risk-taking in the right context. Therefore instead of seeing it as a deep dark pit with no way out, see risk-taking as an ongoing experiment or an ongoing adventure that you have signed up for. See risk as a journey of personal self-discovery or as an exploration of your desired outcomes.

If these suggestions fail to motivate you to take more risks, then decide today that you will view risk-taking as a child who is learning to walk for the very first time. The child will obviously not walk on the very first attempt. They will often stumble and fall many times. However, over the long-run, they will learn to walk, and eventually to run. And the benefit of their efforts will provide them with lifelong joy and opportunity that they would never have experienced if they quit after their first attempt.

Commit Fully

It’s critical that you commit 100% to your desired outcome. If you hesitate while taking risks, you will more often than not fail miserably. This will hurt your confidence and can dishearten you from making further attempts.

Avoid this pitfall, by committing yourself wholeheartedly to the attainment of your desired outcome.

Be Willing to Lose

Stay flexible in mind, and don’t blind yourself to the fact that you may not get your desired outcome the first time around.

Be willing to lose, but also be willing to learn and adapt your approach the next time around.

Fail Forward Fast

Did you know that the most successful people are often the biggest failures? They eventually succeeded after failing many many times.

All the lessons that successful people needed to learn were packed into their failures and mistakes. These lessons helped them make better decisions and eventually obtain their desired outcomes. However, without risk-taking; without pushing themselves out of their comfort zones, they would learn very little, and would achieve very little as a result. Ask yourself:

What can I learn form this failure?

How can I use it to move myself forward?

The rewards always go to those who fail forward fast; who learn their lessons quickly and then take the necessary risks to take advantage of opportunities that come their way.

Think Long-term Benefits

To keep your levels of motivation high, it’s important that while taking risks that you focus on long-term benefits and not on short-term problems and obstacles that you might confront.

Keeping an eye on the big picture will provide you with the direction you need to keep moving forward despite any setbacks that you might face along the way.

Use Visualizations and Mantras

Visualizations and mantras can work wonders to help you stay focused and motivated. Spend time visualizing your desired outcome throughout the day and use an accompanying mantra. For example:

  • Risk taking is exciting…

Cultivate Optimism

When stepping onto the path of uncertainty, the worst thing you can do is doubt yourself. Therefore instead of doubting yourself, you must cultivate optimism, excitement, and faith that things will eventually work out no matter what you might be dealing with in the present moment. Ask yourself:

  • What if everything goes well?
  • What if this setback is a blessing in disguise?
  • What if taking this detour was the only way to get to my destination?
  • What if these obstacles contain within them the lessons I need to learn to attain my desired outcome?

Any obstacles or setbacks you face are simply lessons. Who knows? Maybe you need to learn these lessons in order to attain your desired outcome.

Guidelines for Taking Intelligent Risks

Take Small Risks Daily

Work on developing your risk muscle by taking small risks daily. This is important because the more risks you take, the more your confidence will soar as you become more and more comfortable with risk-taking.

Over time all these small risks will eventually build up and instill within you the confidence you need to take ever bigger risks in the future. It’s just like a muscle. The more you use it the stronger it will become.

Avoid Naysayers

There will always be doubters. These people will never believe in you or in the choices you make. Don’t give them the time of day. They get a kick out of destroying other people’s dreams. They themselves live miserable lives, and they don’t want to live alone within that space. They will, therefore, do anything they can to make sure you join them.

Avoid Taking Dumb Risks

Always work through a risk assessment process. Don’t take dumb risks that cause you more problems than they are worth. Also, don’t get talked into taking dumb risks.

Some people will try and talk you into anything. They simply don’t see the bigger picture — they don’t see the consequences like you do. Under no circumstances should you allow yourself to get caught up in their fantasies. Make your own decisions, write your own path, and create your own future with purpose.

Above all else remember that risk-taking is not gambling.

Time to Assimilate these Concepts

Taking Intelligent Risks

Did you gain value from this article? Is it important that you know and understand this topic? Would you like to optimize how you think about this topic? Would you like a method for applying these ideas to your life?

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