(Last week I discussed the reasons for taking a risk, and the preparation for doing so. This week’s article continues with planned steps to gain the most from taking the risk, while minimizing the stress.)

General George Patton once said,“Take calculated risks; that is quite different from being rash.”

Calculated risks can give you a feeling of power that you cannot get from an imposed risk because you have taken charge of your life. You have put a question to rest: “Can I have this or do this?” so that you will not be haunted for the rest of your life with the thought of what might have been.

And if you follow the right pattern, you will, at the very least, have advanced your skill level. You’ll farther along than you were before you started, and more likely to consider taking another risk in the future.

Assess your tools:
Once you have decided to take a risk, ask yourself the following questions:

• What are the strengths I bring to the situation?
• Are there any skills I could acquire or information I could get that would increase my chances of success? List them.
• Where can I go to get help? Find someone who is already doing what you want to do – then ask.

Have a Plan B
Do you have an alternative plan if this risk doesn’t work out?

Some years ago Ted Turner was told by his most trusted advisers that one of his big schemes would not work, so he prepared a plan B - for a string of Ted Turner hamburger stands to go up all over the United States if Plan A failed. You’ve never seen them, but you have seen the results of his Plan A – CNN.

Plan B might not be nearly as attractive as Plan A, but you’re not stuck with it forever. It’s just something to do for now. It will keep you from becoming paralyzed and thinking. “Oh, gosh, all is lost if this doesn’t work out”, because you have an answer, “Well, for now, I will work on Plan B.”

Plan B could simply be a reward you will give yourself once the risk is over: I once took a risk, knowing in advance, that whatever the outcome, it would immediately be followed it by an evening of self-indulgence, complete with bubble bath, champagne, and a catered meal that I ordered in.

I knew during the risk that I had this celebration of congratulations to look forward to – not necessarily because I got what I wanted, but because I dared to do it. And when the risky event was over (no, I didn’t get what I asked for), I went home and celebrated the fact that I had done something braver than I had ever done before. My courage and skill at risk-taking had been advanced forever by this event.

Get your emotions out of the way
Olympic track and field star Edwin Moses, who also held degrees in physics and engineering, was once asked, “How do you do everything you do, and so well?” He replied, “I don’t take myself seriously.” When the reporters looked shocked, he added hastily, “I take what I do very seriously.” He was indicating an important mindset that peak performers develop: separating yourself into the Actor and the Observer.

The Actor is your body, performing the actions necessary for the particular activity. The Observer is your mind’s eye, high above your body, looking down, assessing, directing, and learning from the activity. The idea is to separate your emotion (body) from your intellect (mind), so that you are not overwhelmed by emotion that will undermine your performance.

Focusing on the idea that the Observer is busy learning something that will pay off in the future will keep you focused on what you are doing, rather than on your nervousness or on the possibility of a poor outcome.

Looking to the future:
It’s important, too, to recognize that this event will not be your only chance – other opportunities will arise in the future in which to display your increasing excellence.

Nobody who wins an Olympic Gold Medal gets there on the first try; they will have spent years trying, failing, observing and learning from their mistakes, and finally succeeding.

Astronaut Alan Bean, who became a painter after having walked on the moon, was asked if his astronaut experience had contributed to a sudden rush of insight and skill in painting. He said, matter-of-factly, “No, it’s the same process. Study, practice, make mistakes.”

Successful people do it. What are you waiting for?

(Next week: how do you evaluate your risk-taking in a way that helps you to feel good about what you have done, regardless of the outcome?)

Author's Bio: 

Lynette Crane, M.A.(Psychology) and Certified Life Coach,is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years' experience in the field of stress management. She currently works to provide stress and time pressure solutions to harried women, those women who seek "Islands of Peace" in their overly-busy lives. Her talks to groups of what she calls "harried women" are receiving rave reviews. Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.