What Makes Taking a BIG RISK for Change Worthwhile?

Making a change that will radically shift your life involves taking a 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. What is a BIG RISK to one person will not necessarily be the same 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. My client Jessica was a parent considering whether to publish a book she'd written about a controversial subject she was passionate about— bullying in public schools. Her son had been bullied when he was younger, and this had seriously impacted his sense of well-being.

But for her, even thinking about publishing this book was like being in a nightmare of having to solo pilot and land a small plane in dangerous terrain without total confidence in her equipment or or her ability to fly. 

Jessica came for coaching because she felt stuck, almost paralyzed, with fear. She'd written her book, but was afraid to publish it because of possible harmful consequences to her and her family. So 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, with her son in college, she felt a renewed inner drive to publish and voice her concerns about bullying at school.

Coaching gave Jessica a safe, supportive place to talk freely about the meaning to her of putting her book out in public. In this way, I heard her compassion and empathy for those children who were bullied and whose lives at school became a horror. She began to feel compassion for herself in her struggles with her fear of creating this genuine transformative change. She also felt more supported and grounded in planning for a big leap forward.

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 new and larger possibility in your life. One way to do this is by acknowledging what success really means to you. Taking on the challenge of making a change that emotionally engages you is what makes taking the risk worthwhile.

Jessica now saw the risk she was taking as "My BIG Adventure!" What will be your reward? I asked her. She replied, "The adventure itself, learning to fly freely by motivating others to stop bullies in schools!"

Next, Jessica planned smaller action steps she could take to accomplish her mission. 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 (her book) carefully inspected before flight time (by her editor and her friends reading over her manuscript). She could be trained in making emergency landings (learning how she could handle criticism of herself and her book); and very importantly, learn to not to be hijacked by fear. 

She recognized how vital it was to have understanding friends and professional/ 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 with positive reviews from teachers, other educators, and parents she knew. She had in-person and online talks with these people and began to get contacts for interviews on the radio, newspapers, education journals, and online sources. Jessica felt excited, and increasingly confident of her vision to change public school culture by creating zero-tolerance for bullying.

At a deeper level, Jessica found her inner well of inspiration to create something bigger than herself of true value in the world— making a beneficial contribution to young, vulnerable people. In transforming her fear of taking her BIG RISK to go forward with her book publication, Jessica felt empowered to meet the challenge of getting to where she really wanted to go! 

"You shifted perspectives . . . You allowed your heart to open. You let the bird out of the cage. You are flying!"  — Pamela Hale, Flying Lessons