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For a healthy mind, body and business

What does risk really look like? How stepping out of your comfort zone isn’t the answer.

Woman debating giant jenga game and taking risk with move
John Moeses

By Helen Packham

What’s the biggest risk you have ever taken?

It might be purchasing a home, bungee jumping or leaving your career to set up your own business. It may also be something much bigger or much smaller, even just voicing an opinion. When I reflect on the risks I've taken in my life, they vary depending on what was at stake and how I felt at the time. When it comes to our own ambitions, there is usually an element of risk taking involved. But what does risk really look like?

What does risk look like?

I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder after having my daughter. Back then, speaking to friends on the street felt like a huge risk. I didn’t want to leave the house and it even led me to run away from my career. Staying in my comfort zone felt like the safest option.

A few years later, after working with the tools I had been given to manage my anxiety, I was able to move out of my comfort zone, put some big dreams on my goal list, and started to tick them off.

These included starting my business as a leadership specialist, giving a TED talk, and doing a wing walk for charity. Risk is in the eye of the beholder, and our mindset plays a huge part in what we perceive as a risk and what feels more comfortable. What feels risky to one person is going to feel different to another.

Risk can be defined as something that can expose you to danger or loss. This makes sense if you are jumping out of, or strapping yourself to a plane. But what about if the outcome is a little more hazy?

jumping from waterfall
Jakob Owens

The subconscious protector

It all comes down to your mind and body. When there is a perceived threat in the environment, an internal protective mechanism kicks in, and the brain can’t distinguish whether that threat is real or not. Most of the time, these threats are imagined and have a low percentage chance of actually happening. In the modern world, the same bodily responses are triggered when thinking about having an honest or challenging conversation, putting ideas forward and speaking up, standing on a stage or applying for a new job. 

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