Making a change that will radically shift your life involves taking at least one risk that is a definite challenge to what is known and familiar to you. Such challenges can be external, involving changing professions, investing capital to create change, or moving to a different place. But at a transformational level, taking a BIG RISK involves changing from within yourself, too. So what is a BIG RISK to one person will not necessarily be a BIG RISK to someone else with a different personality, skills, and life experience.
The bigger the challenge is to a person, the bigger the risk will seem. For one of my clients, Jessica, a parent planning to come out with a book about a controversial subject that she was passionate about— bullying in public schools— was like being in a nightmare of having to solo pilot and land a small plane in a dangerous terrain without total confidence in her equipment or how to land safely in an emergency. She was a person who protected her privacy, and her biggest fear was that she would be exposing herself and her family to possibly hurtful public scrutiny in order to promote and sell her book.
Jessica came for coaching because she felt stuck. She'd written her book, but didn't know whether to publish it. I started by having her define what the value was to her in taking on such a huge challenge. While privacy for herself and her family was important to her, as her son started college, she felt a strong inner drive to voice her concerns about bullying at school that had strongly impacted her family when her son was a young teenager. Coaching gave Jessica a safe, supportive place to talk freely about the meaning to her of putting her book out in public. I also heard her compassion and empathy for those children who were bullied and whose lives at school became a horror.
With her family's support, she was willing to take the risk of their public exposure because of the big picture she held— feeling that, through her book, she could become a leader in the movement to create a positive and safer environment in public schools. Her deep desire was to change the way principals, teachers, and teaching aides are trained in viewing and dealing with bullying in the schools. Her intent was to set up a new paradigm for classrooms and playgrounds to become safe places for children and teens to be and learn.
As she said this, I asked her to notice what she was sensing in her body. She paused for a moment, then replied that she'd been holding her breath tightly in her chest and diaphragm. When I asked her what she was feeling there, she responded, "Fear of believing that I can risk my life as it is and become a more public voice for change."
It's important to remember that taking a BIG RISK to make a change that matters vitally to you is not about the absence of fear. It's about becoming aware that fear indicates the presence of a direct challenge to your spirit— and that you need to prepare inwardly and outwardly to move past your fear. One way to do this is by acknowledging what success really means to you. This is what makes taking the risk worthwhile— taking on the challenge of making a change that inspires you, and that will transform the way you are and what you can offer to the world.
As we continued our sessions, Jessica decided to see taking her risk to publish her book from a new perspective— My Big Adventure! I'd asked her, what will be your reward? Now she was able to reply, the adventure itself, learning to fly freely!
We also practiced grounding techniques such as stopping to breathe slowly and fully, to calm feelings of anxiety and hold her new Big Adventure perspective in going forward. Another grounding exercise was guiding Jessica to feel her feet on the ground connecting with the embracing energy of the earth. I also had her place her hand on her heart to connect with her own love and compassion for herself, to give her nourishing support from within for taking the risk to make the change she desired (Linda Graham, Bouncing Back).
Next, Jessica planned smaller action steps she could take that would help break down the BIG RISK factor. Using the metaphor of trying to land a small plane safely in dangerous, unknown territory, she saw that she could prepare by having her equipment carefully inspected before flight time, have training in making emergency landings, and very importantly, learn to manage fear. So she recognized how vital it was to have a skilled trainer and to find professional and emotional support people to help her through any challenges that would arise after her book's publication.
She checked out the terrain of who she wanted to read her book, and made a list of her allies in getting the book out and getting positive reviews from teachers, principals, and other parents she knew. She had in-person and online talks with these people and began to get contacts for interviews on radio, newspaper, education journals, and online sources. Jessica felt excited, and increasingly confident, that she was making progress in checking out where she'd be landing with her book and publishing her action plan to change the public school culture to create zero-tolerance for bullying.
At a deep, spiritual level, Jessica found her inner well of inspiration to create something bigger than herself of true value in the world— a beneficial contribution to young, vulnerable people. As a consequence of taking this BIG RISK, she felt prepared to fly forward, confident that she was prepared from within for where she would land.
"You shifted perspectives . . . You allowed your heart to open. You let the bird out of the cage. You are flying!" — Pamela Hale, Flying Lessons
Here's what I know coaching can do to support you in taking the BIG RISKS you're facing in making career, life-balance, spiritual opening, and creativity changes that matter greatly to you—
Define the value of the change you want to make. Explore the biggest picture of where you really want to go.
Become aware of the fear you don't know you've been holding. If you stay limited by fear, you just hold tight and never blossom. When you give fear a voice, it dissipates.
See your BIG RISK from a new, more open, and more productive perspective.
Develop inner grounding to hold your new perspective as preparation for taking worthwhile risks.
Break down your BIG RISK into manageable action steps.
Become aware at a deep level that the emotional value of taking a risk is the biggest part of creating transformative change.
Develop compassion for yourself and others. Taking a BIG RISK is a big undertaking and will change you and your outlook on life.
Feel empowered— to take action toward your goals— and to look at what you've gained from the BIG RISKS you've taken.
What's the support you need?
Whatever finally gets you to the edge, to the risk you have to take to make the change that really matters to you, what's important is that you're there and willing to confront whatever has stood in your way.
What is the risk I've not been willing to take about writing this blog post? Frankly, the big risk I'm taking now is trying to keep on top of this change to my kitchen. I'm a complete novice in home remodeling. Sometimes it's hard to see that the many different steps involved in this project are leading to the desired outcome.
Ah, so this is what's keeping me from wanting to write about taking risks!— especially a risk that seems, well, risky. Not a sure thing. But that's the nature of risk-taking.
In my case, the risk involves what seems like a big outlay of time, money, energy, and personal space.
Making a change yourself involves risk. How do you know whether taking a risk will be worth it to you?
My clients come for coaching because of their desire to make vital changes— in the way they work, manage life balance, and infuse spiritual and somatic awareness in the shaping of their whole lives. In other words, they want to transform not only the look, but also the depth and the quality of their whole lives.
What is this underneath part of risk-taking? Certainly fear plays a big part. As I describe in my book, Success with Soul, fear of taking a risk to create a desired change falls in these three categories—
Fear of loss (of a job, a relationship, status, family/societal approval, control)
Fear of failure (not reaching a dream or desired outcome)
Fear of the unknown (loss of identity, direction, or desires)
"He said, 'Come to the Edge.'
I said, 'I can't, I'm afraid.'
He said, 'Come to the Edge.'
I said, 'I can't, I'll fall off.'
He said, finally, 'Come to the Edge.'
And I came to the Edge.
And he pushed me.
And I flew."
— Guillaume Apollinaire
"Don't let the fear of falling keep you
from knowing the joy of flight."
— Lane Wallace, Flying magazine, Jan. 2001