Risk Taking to Expand Your Opportunities

Written by Paul Wolf

Advice on expanding your comfort zone. Take small risks daily so you can easily handle the big risks in life. Smart risks are for anyone who wants more out of life.

Midlife Myth: Thrill seeking is only for the young.


When you see a helmet-less figure blazing down a big hill on a skateboard, you can bet long odds it's a guy under the age of 25.


There's a kind of testosterone factor going on here. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that there were 8,134 accidental deaths for white males ages 15 through 24, and 3,021 for white females of the same age group. Car accidents accounted for most of this statistical divergence.


But reckless physical acts are one thing. Quite another is the universal human impulse to try new things, fears and consequences be damned.


Taking smart risks instead of reckless risks means keeping dangers on a sensible level and finding that line that separates reasonable from unreasonable risks. It's the "go for it" school of life, a philosophy to which people of all ages and social backgrounds subscribe.


Age and estrogen are hardly factors at the Alabama Skydiving Center, where a notable 40 percent of first-time jumpers from the standard 15,000 feet are women, says manager Ben Butler. The Center reports that 10 percent of all of its novices are over 40. "There is no difference in either the fear you experience or the thrill you get based on your age," says Butler.


After that crazy skateboarder has given up his wheels, his risks at midlife may become subtler. He'll get his endorphin rush from a daring business conquest or an adventure vacation. The thrills may get repackaged, but most still seek them.


"In every society, esteem and status are tied to risk-taking behavior," says Jim McKenna, professor of biological anthropology at the University of Notre Dame.


People find innumerable outlets for their thrill-seeking desires, ranging from skydiving to motorcycle riding to extreme sports.


In their book Lessons From The Edge, Maryann Karinch and David Brooks say the main motivator for extreme sports aficionados is not "adrenaline addiction" but self-discovery.


Age is irrelevant when it comes to the need to take risks. But the older you are, the more you may get from your risk taking. More mature thrill-seekers tend to invest as much importance in learning and self-development as they do in the risk-taking itself.


In Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway, Susan Jeffers encourages people to consciously take risks every day. This doesn't mean sign up for daily skydiving. It can be something as grounded as confronting social fears. Call someone you are intimidated to speak to, or eat alone in a very expensive restaurant.

The goal is to enlarge the parameters of your comfort zone so you are less penned in by fears. Over time, bigger goals, such as changing careers or rethinking a relationship, won't seem so implausible.


Practice taking risks every day, and you won't have to climb Mount Everest to grow in courage and in options.


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Photographer: Joăo estęvăo Andrade de freitas



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