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Risk Taking, Calculated or Random Act?

Updated: Sep 14

Take those chances and you can achieve greatness, whereas if you go conservative, you’ll never know. I truly believe what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Even if you fail, learning and moving on is sometimes the best thing. - Danica Patrick Risk taking is defined as engaging in any activity with an uncertain outcome. In this post, we will look at risk taking from the perspective of extreme sports (ES). In these sports, errors in judgement and risk can be costly, including severe injury or death.

From the spectator’s point of view, athletes in extreme sports (ES), like slope style skiing, snowboarding a half pipe, and downhill mountain biking, are risk takers and adrenaline junkies that seem to be reckless and impulsive. However, when you dive deeper, you will find that they are risk takers, but they are calculated decision makers. Fear can be the emotion that drives ES athletes to take the necessary precautions to reduce the risk of serious injury and death.

Here are tips from extreme sports athletes, how to take risks and overcome your fears: a. Ask yourself why?  Know your motivation. If you are doing it for the wrong reasons, your fear will alway overcome your confidence and judgement.

b. Set clear goals and outcomes. Goals give you focus. The more detail, the better: be specific, make it measurable, achievable and realistic, and make them time bound (SMART goals).

c. Understand the level of risk taking you are comfortable with. Also, understand the downsides to taking that risk. Safety is the highest priority.

d. Wear the right protective gear and have the right equipment. For example, you wouldn't want to play in a basketball game with flip flops or skate a half pipe without a helmet.

e. Identify your level of ability and own it. If you are a beginner surfer, it isn’t a good decision to surf the big waves at Mavericks, California. Start small and build your way up. Remember, mastery is the process of acquiring skill and knowledge. There are no short cuts so take your time versus giving in to the temptation to seek instant gratification and get in over your head.

f. Be honest with your emotions. You can’t fake confidence or trick yourself into being confident. Identify and label the emotions you are feeling. If you can't identify and label them, they fester in your subconscious both physically (e.g., stomachache) and mentally (e.g.,too many thoughts in your mind). Confidence comes from knowing your strengths, weaknesses, limitations, and what you believe you can accomplish based on your training and level of experience.

g. Practice and acquire the skills necessary to take bigger risks. Think of it as levels, like level 1 being the curiosity to try a new sport or skill, level 2 getting comfortable learning and mastering basic skills, and level 3 starting to challenge yourself with higher level skills, like hitting bigger features in slope style skiing or play harder competition in a team sport like lacrosse.

h. Know that you will fail before you succeed. See each failure as a challenge. It's the steps you take that get you closer to acquiring a new skill and personal mastery.

i. Celebrate your successes. This is very important! So many athletes tend to be hard on themselves to just overcome failure. It's a great motivation and drive to challenge yourself to overcome setbacks. However, it's also important to celebrate your successes. It's your reminder of how far you have come. Take pride in your accomplishments and use them as fuel to push new limits and see how much further you can go! In the end, it's all about the journey not the outcome!

j. Trusting your training and trusting your equipment will give you the comfort and confidence needed to take risks. If you've committed the blood, sweat, and tears toward mastery, you will have confidence knowing that you are prepared and can accomplish anything. Self doubt is fueled by lack of preparation and lack of skills development.

k. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and are there to help you succeed. Confidence breeds confidence and success breeds success! In the end, be strategic in your risk taking, don't just going out there bind and unaware of what to expect. The best are prepared and have taken every precaution, have their team of support, and trust their gut. If it doesn't feel right, chances are, it's not gonna go right!

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