How quick are you to jump on opportunities that come your way, to take that risk? Part of being resilient is having the resources you need to bounce forward in life or transform your current reality. And that’s always going to mean overcoming an amount of uncertainty and risk. We are all different in terms of appetite for risk – whether we are willing to say “yes” and figure it out later. But, like resilience, this appetite is mostly the result of repeated thoughts and actions built up over time – and that means that, wherever you are right now, you can change.

3 Examples of Risk Mindsets

Mindset 1: Doesn’t say yes to anything unless the result is guaranteed success. 

I will admit to having spent a lot of time in this category. There is very little openness to risk here – uncertainty can produce an almost-overwhelming fear response. Maybe you’ve tried and failed at something in the past and that failure has become associated with something really big (e.g. a parent leaving at an early age). Or maybe you have been shamed for your failures or for experimenting with mixed results. We grow by getting outside our comfort zones and to do that we need to take some risks so this mindset will keep you stuck.

How to start saying yes more: aim for the Stretch Zone.

This is the area just outside your comfort zone where you feel a bit out on a limb but not out of control. Take very small risks to start with so that you can start demonstrating to your brain that it’s possible to do things differently. Give yourself time to get gradually accustomed to small risks before you move on to something bigger. Learn how to navigate your nervous system so that you have tools at your disposal (meditation, breathwork, free writing) for moments when fight, flight or freeze might rise up and stop you from taking action you really need to. And, finally, reassess what risk means to you – if you see it as reckless try reframing it as a leap of faith.

Mindset 2: Will take a big bold risk but with eyes shut. And can only repeat this if it was successful.

The thing about risk (and life in general) is that we don’t succeed all the time. In fact, I think the percentage chance of ‘success’ is probably pretty low. I say ‘success’ rather than success because sometimes the benefits of taking a risk, especially if you ‘fail’ aren’t obvious. You might be aiming to get something exactly right, get accepted, win something or achieve a specific goal. But, in fact, the actual benefit for you might come from having to process a failure – or learning through what happens on the way. This is where being more resilient can be incredibly important because it gives you the flexibility to see things differently and the tenacity not to give up if you don’t get it right first time. Someone who is all about the huge risks is often trying to push through fear by pretending failure doesn’t exist. It’s good to go for things – but jumping blindly in to avoid the fear can sometimes sometimes increase the potential for things going wrong – and create a rigid mindset in which failure is not just part of being human but an intolerable and painful prospect.

How to start saying yes more: reframe a FAIL as a ‘First Attempt In Learning.’

Start to see the process of taking a risk as more a series of small steps than one big leap and look for ways to improve your chances of success with more preparation and learning. It’s also going to be really important to look at any emotional barriers you’re imposing on yourself (e.g. “that didn’t work last time so I shouldn’t try again”) and how you feel about shame. Shame can be a big problem if you’ve failed at something – you might feel disgusted with yourself and just want to forget the whole experience. But if you take shame out of the equation it’s possible to review what happened in a more objective way – what could you learn, where could you prepare more and what could you do differently next time? Compassion is the antidote to shame (see below).

Mindset 3: Willing to say yes and figure it out later.

This is a great mindset to have because it gives you more freedom to tap into what you’re capable of instead of being limited by what you’ve already felt and done. I don’t think this is about ‘winging it’ or being dishonest, overpromising etc. It’s more that you feel confident enough in your qualities, talents etc, as well as your ability to handle whatever happens, that you’re going to make it work. It means that you’re not staying stuck behind internal limits like “I’m not good enough” or “I don’t belong here.” And that you can take a leap of faith without blowing out your nervous system to do it.

How to start saying yes more: look for the instinctive nudge rather than saying yes to everything. If an opportunity comes along that feels good or exciting that’s gut instinct. Follow it.

The role of self-compassion

I often find that when I start talking about self-compassion people either want to – or do – roll their eyes. I get this. If someone had come at me with the idea that compassion was anything but a soft cop out concept when I was working in the City I would have laughed them out of the room. But it’s a bit like resilience – a lot of people seem to think resilience is about control, forcing, pushing and striving. In fact, resilience is about flexibility – bending in the wind so that you don’t break. Self-compassion is this same kind of fluidity. It’s the gentle strength that means you can fail and fail and fail again and still feel good about yourself and who you are. It’s the foundation of avoiding the shame that can shrink creativity, ideas and motivation so that you can continue to grow, experiment and try. It’s what oils your ability to say yes and figure it out later – because you’ve got your own back no matter what comes next.

You don’t have to have everything figured out before you start. In fact, some of the best ideas, innovation, growth and progress start out in a dark or uncertain place. But you do have to be willing to say yes to the potential – and figure the rest out as you go along. Maybe today that means booking a resilience coaching intro call with me so we can chat about your challenges, whether that relates to risk or something else..

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