August 20, 2017
Some of the greatest success stories ever told begin with an ordinary individual in the face of an extraordinary crossroads. In stories like these, we see how an individual’s unique perception of risk gave them the courage and tenacity to do what no one else would do and led them to accomplish the “impossible.” But how, as ordinary people, do we identify which risks are worth taking and which are not? How can we make steps towards seeing the impossible come to life without falling flat on our faces unnecessarily? The following five characteristics of risks worth taking just might be what you need to help you decide which path to take in your own life.
1. A risk worth taking comes at the appropriate time.
“For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter, though a person may be weighed down by misery.” - Ecclesiastes 8:6
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” - Ecclesiastes 3:1
It was my junior year in high school, and it was my turn for feedback on our latest project. I had only started painting within the year but was becoming a little prideful as I watched my technical skills advance. When I turned the drawing board to show off my work in progress, I was surprised to see the teacher’s face appear a little less than enthused. He took a minute before saying, “It’s good, Aubrey, but it's time for you to start taking some risks.” Caught off guard and a little offended, I responded with resistance. In my mind, my painting looked perfect because it looked realistic. “We already know you can paint well, “ he explained, “so let’s see you pushing yourself in some new ways now.” Humbled, I stared at the artwork afraid of taking on a new challenge, but understanding that staying comfortable wasn’t compatible with my desire to grow.
Often times when we work so hard towards a goal, it’s easy to kick up our feet when it’s finally reached - permanently relocating to a place of comfortability instead of staying for a night or two. If you have found yourself stuck in a cycle where everything is the same-old, same-old, and your growth is minimal, it might be the opportune time to try something new!
On the other hand, if you've been presented with an opportunity to take a risk while things are going haywire or the pieces just aren’t adding up, it may be wiser to wait. Take for example a single mom who receives an invitation to accept an unpaid internship at the company of her dreams. She has no savings with bills being paid month-to-month and no one to watch her little one. In a situation like this, it may be best to wait until circumstances change before risk-taking in order to take care of more pressing matters first.
2. A risk worth taking comes with a trustworthy cheerleader (or cheerleaders).
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” - Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
It’s true that when it comes time to take a risk, voices of negativity rise, but a trustworthy friend will support you IF they believe you are making the right choice. So, what do the people who love you the most say about this risk you are considering? If those who love you aren’t supporting you, what do people you admire say?
When I first questioned leaving teaching in a traditional classroom, I received negative feedback from almost every person around me - partially due to the timing as mentioned previously. The response to my questioning ranged from a doubtful, “Where will you get health insurance, though?” to people yelling at me in anger. Meanwhile, I had 2 or 3 main supporters who encouraged me to explore something more fitting. In the end, I looked at the lives of all of those around me and decided that I admired the lives and conduct of my few supporters much more than those who were bringing me down. Because I admired their life choices, I decided to listen to their advice and let them have a front row seat to my heart while others got stuck in the cheap seats.
Strong relationships can help you muster up the courage to start something new, but a supportive friend will also be there to encourage you when you’re in the middle or tail end of your journey. The more people in your life that can give you emotional, financial, or practical support, the better!
3. A risk worth taking pushes you to grow for the better.
"They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it." - 1 Peter 3:11
Take some time to ask yourself what will happen as a result of taking this risk. What are the long-term consequences or benefits? What do you have to do and for how long in order to “succeed” or know that your risk was worth it? Is the risk you are considering going to put you or those that you love in harm’s way? Will it take a significant toll on your health or isolate you from community? Will it put a long-term strain on your family or keep you from pursuing relationship with God?
What if instead, the results of this risk will give you more time, more energy, and more capacity to serve others? Will it give you more fulfillment and allow you to bless other people more?
Taking these questions into account can help guide your decision and expose any hidden motives, effects, or pitfalls in your plan.
4. A risk worth taking has benefits that far outweigh the negatives.
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ - Luke 14:28-30
As obvious as it seems, it is so important to think thoroughly through a risky decision. Making a chart of pros and cons can help to visualize and accept the amount there is to gain or to lose when planning out something new.
Not only should you make a list of the potential losses and gains, but take time to consider which of those things are of the highest priority to you. You might love the free gym membership offered by your potential employer, but it likely isn’t worth having to commute 3 hours a day or working nights.
5. A risk worth taking is one you can deeply commit to.
“So Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.’” - John 6:67-69
If your risk has received an A+ in all other categories at this point, it is likely to be one that you see as worth the reward. There is an example in the Bible of a group taking a giant risk. The disciples had just heard Jesus say how excruciatingly difficult it was going to be to follow him. They would have to put everyone second - including themselves - in order to be in ministry and have fellowship with him. Not only that, but they would have to go against the societal norms of their time and eventually, possibly, even die for their cause. When Jesus turned and asked these men if they were going to leave him after hearing his harsh words, they responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go?”. In other words, this was their only option - their beliefs convicted them that there was no other way.
So what about your risk? Is there another way? Is there a choice you can make that puts less on the line? Is there a middle-ground between the two extremes that you see? Or is this truly a risk you are willing to give everything for?
I hope that these prompts were able to encourage you and get you thinking about decision-making in a way you haven’t before. Whatever risk you are considering, I pray you will be filled with wisdom as you consider your choices and a brand-new journey in your life.