I wouldn’t class myself a risk taker by any stretch of the imagination. In fact by nature whilst I’ll certainly grab life by the scruff of the neck, I tend to play it safe a little more than I should sometimes. But 6 years ago (almost to the day) I made one of the most significant decisions in my life – I left a well-paid job at one of the best brands in the world, to set up my own business with my co-founder Imogen. I’m often asked by people (and sometimes myself) how I found the courage to make that leap…
The funny thing is, actually it didn’t take much courage in the end, at least I didn’t see it that way I suppose. After weighing up all the pros and cons, it came down to me asking myself; ‘what’s the worst that could happen if I do this?’ For me the answer was ‘we would never get any work, no one would pay us, and I’d go back and find a job somewhere in a few months’ time.’
However, the more powerful question, the one that allowed me to pull the rug from under the big hairy decision, face down the tunnel of uncertainty and free me to make the move was:
‘What’s the worst thing that could happen if I don’t take the chance and give it a go?’
I suddenly realised that I’d never know what could have been possible. I would have to live wondering ‘What if I’d actually tried to build a business?’
Reflecting on this moment got me thinking about how too often in life we get caught up in the emotion that surround big decisions. We become paralysed by the fear of the unknown (not wanting to make a bad decision), so end up unable to move forward.
My own way of coping with these kinds of big hairy decisions is typically to sit down with a pad and draw up a list of pros and cons – in itself that seems sensible, but sometimes you will find ways of validating whichever side of the argument your emotion is caught up in. There is a danger of merely amplifying your fears in the list, giving you permission to go with the option that feels safest.
A much more powerful tool for helping through those moments is to spend time shining a light on the problem and any fear you have of the unknown future it holds. If you can give it some context and explore some of the realistic future possibilities, then you are likely to be able to stop it feeling so scary. So, the next time you are facing a big hairy decision I challenge you to ask yourself two questions and really spend time exploring each….
1. What is the worst that could happen?
In my case .... I would never get a client; the business would fail, and I wouldn’t have any money.
Once you’ve considered the worst case, ask yourself what you can do to mitigate any fall out and minimise the impact if it does happen.
In my case I saved enough money to pay my mortgage for a few months and had a wonderful business partner in crime I could bounce ideas off and share the good/bad times with.
2. Secondly, and MORE importantly as yourself; What is the cost of doing nothing and staying as I am? What will life be like in 6 months, 18 months and even 10 years’ time?
You might be frightened of the big decision that you are about to make, but you also may find that you’re even more frightened by the thought of inaction and what kind of future that holds.
It sounds really simple but try it – I can guarantee that by spending time looking at what’s stopping you will suddenly unlock a whole host of opportunities. The courageous version of you, that you maybe didn’t even know exists, will make an appearance.