Risk is essential. There is no growth or inspiration in staying within what is safe and comfortable. -Alex Noble
Taking risks is something we all need to do. It pushes us. It’s helps us grow and evolve—not just in our outdoor sports and activities, but in our lives. Taking risks allows us to find our boundaries and redefine our limits of possibilities.
When you walk to the edge of all the light you have and take that first step into the darkness of the unknown, you must believe that one of two things will happen. There will be something solid for you to stand upon or you will be taught to fly. - Patrick Overton
In order to take the kind of risks that encourage us to take more, we need to give ourselves the best possible opportunity and environment in which to push ourselves.
But have you ever wondered why some days challenging yourself to step up, try something new, take risks and push your boundaries you find totally exhilarating while other days just stepping outside your front door can feel like the biggest risk you’re up for that day?
We each have a varying threshold for taking risks that’s unique to us. Whether we’re willing to take a risk, or not, is dictated by a combination of factors. Some days it actually has little to do with the risk itself and a lot to do with where our individual threshold is on that particular day.
So what are the “taking risks” criteria for determining your own personal threshold?
- Your individual base comfort level
- Environmental influences
- Your energy level at that point in time
- Your current reservoir of strength
Let’s break down these factors for taking risks into more detail.
Your Individual Base Comfort Level
What we mean by your individual base comfort level, is how comfortable you are on average with the particular chosen activity?
A swimmer new to the ocean is going to have a different baseline than that of a competitive ocean swimmer. How well you swim, the size and power of the waves, and temperature of the water are all factors that go into your baseline.
Your mountain biking partners might shy away from the more technical single track while you don’t think twice about them.
Of course, your baseline will shift over time, as your skills advance, but in general, ask yourself the question, where is the line where you begin to feel a little nervous right now? Knowing where your baseline is with each activity will help you know where you want to start pushing to make breakthroughs.
Environmental conditions include things like the seasons, weather, length of time you’re out, the the time of day you’re engaging in the activity. Trekking to a summit in the middle of a hot summers day is different to trekking that same summit during a snowstorm. Arriving at the halfway point in an ultra endurance event like The Northface 100 at 1pm will present different considerations than arriving at 6pm (did you bring your headlamp?). Your environment may also include the people you’re with or in racing situations, your team. How well do you know and trust them when difficulties arise? What are their individual strengths and weaknesses and how comfortable are you with these individual and team dynamics when the added stress of competitive racing is added to the equation? For example, if the group is highly competitive and you’re not, your threshold for risk will probably shift. Feeling pressured to do something you’re not comfortable with can lead to resistance. On the flip side, feeling safe and supported within a team can boost your level of confidence and provide a great space to test your limits.
Your Current Energy Level
Many things effect your daily energy levels. It’s no surprise that we’re more ready and able to take risks when we’re feeling alert, positive and have had a great night sleep and been energised by a nutritious diet. So assess your energy levels each day before you go out to try something new or push your boundaries. Ask yourself, am I working extra hard just to keep up? (thus lessening the amount of energy you have for the risk-taking)? Are you feeling stressed or having a bit of a downer? Or maybe it's the opposite, you’re feeling invigorated and energised, ready to take on new challenges and break new ground.
Your Strength Reservoir
You reservoir of strength ties into your current energy level, but takes into account what’s going on in your life outside of the particular activity. A busy work week, relationship or family stress, in fact any lifestyle change can shift your threshold. Have you been ill? Running around after the kids or looking after ageing parents? Have a big project going on at work? When we’re expending a lot of energy elsewhere, it can be difficult to find the necessary courage to test a new personal boundary elsewhere.
Some days are better for taking risks than others. It’s really important to understand as women that everything we do in a day has an effect of everything else. That might seem obvious, but it’s surprising how often this factor is overlooked. It's surprising to think that we often believe we should be able to do it all well, all of the time.
Do these factors resonate with you? Are there others you pay attention to when you’re engaging in a new or challenging activity?
We'd love to hear your thoughts and continue the discussion of the importance risk for any woman wanting more adventure in her life.