Why Risking It All is Not Necessary to Follow Your Dreams


Any discussion about following our dreams is not complete without talking about the “fears” topic.

This time though, I want to cover something else.  It’s equally important to think about.  And it’s not quite the same as fear.

It’s risk aversion.

We all have a level of risk taking at which we are comfortable.  This is hard-wired in all of us.  And it’s different for each person.

Said differently, we are all comfortable taking daring steps – AT VARYING LEVELS OF RISKS.

So, you might say – “Well, I’m not afraid of the water.  I can swim in the ocean.  But when the waves are big, I’m not going in.”

Another person however, may not feel the same way, and may be comfortable jumping in regardless of the wave height.

Someone who has a low level of risk aversion is typically seen as adventurous, a risk-taker, a dare devil.

Someone with a high level of risk aversion is often referred to as cautious, conservative, prudent.

Our individual level of risk aversion affects (and should!) how we act and make decisions.

I used to work for someone whose level of risk aversion is, on a scale of 1-10, maybe an 8 at best.  As much as he wouldn’t want to admit this, he’s not comfortable putting his neck out there unless he considers it a sure thing.

Before he can make a decision on anything, he needs LOTS and LOTS of data.  He also talks to LOTS and LOTS of people first.  If it’s not likely to be a sure thing, he’s not going to go there.  He’s not comfortable being alone and exposed by taking an unpopular decision.

I also know someone else who’s quite different.  People who know him see him as a risk-taker.  He makes quick decisions; he may talk to people to get validation of his ideas, but he’s not afraid to be a lone wolf.  He’s agile on his feet and quick to make adjustments when things seem to go south.  And he’s also comfortable calling it quits on something that isn’t working.

As you can see, these 2 individuals have very different levels of risk aversion.  They will both make a decision – making a decision is not an issue – but they arrive at the decision point very differently.

And what they decide to do, how ‘big a splash’ they may be comfortable making, will also differ from each other.

When you are thinking about making a change in your life or career to pursue your second act, you have to consider your level of risk aversion.

You cannot copy someone else’s path, even though you may seemingly have the same desired destination.

He/she will likely be on a different risk aversion level than you.  What you may be comfortable doing, she may find quite daunting.  And vice versa.

Remember that your level of risk aversion will affect how you act.

If you’re not comfortable with the risk you’re taking, it will show in your actions and decisions.  Things will feel awkward, and you will feel either (a) constantly constrained, or (b) perpetually hesitant.

It is best to craft a road map to your second act that reflects your comfort level.

Here’s an example.

Say you want to live in a different country.  You’ve always enjoyed traveling and meeting new people while on vacation.  But you’ve been dreaming about living in a different country for longer periods of time so that you can really get to know the locals, the culture, the people.

If you have a high level of risk aversion, you probably wouldn’t be comfortable selling your current home and moving to a new country altogether.  You may want to enter into a home-exchange program, where you can find people to swap residences with for a period of time (such as this one  – I haven’t used this service by the way, but I know someone who does and has been happy with the service).  This provides you with a base and some place you can still call “home”.

If you have a low level of risk aversion, you may feel totally cool with selling your current home, packing your suitcase(s) and moving abroad altogether.   This is exactly what Nadine Hays Pisani and her husband did when they sold their chiropractic practice in NJ and moved to Costa Rica.  In her book “Happier Than a Billionaire“,  Natalie shares how she and her husband followed their dreams, quit their jobs, and built a new life in sunny Costa Rica.  It is such a fun read (she is quite witty and funny), and you’ll see all the kinds of risks they took along the way.

Certainly, both approaches will move you forward towards your dream of “living abroad”, but you’ll arrive at it and design your roadmap differently, depending on your risk aversion level.

Taking away risks from all new endeavors is impossible.  Everything worth doing has some level of risk involved.

At the end of the day, it’s all about honoring your true nature, while turning your dream into reality.

Lou Blaser is the founder of Second Breaks, where she devotes herself to thinking about all the ways to inspire and incite people to follow their dreams and go for their second acts.  Come visit her at http://www.secondbreaks.com

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