Be Daring: The Why, When & How of Taking Risks

Then, we were taught the notion of risk, consequences and boundaries…and before long, we stopped risking and stayed confined to the box that was seemingly painted around us. How can we get back to that trait of boldness we had as a child?

Studio 5 Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Liz Hale, breaks down the why, when and how of taking risks.

Be Daring: WHY?

I’m all for being child-like in our innocent pursuit of dreams. If we never take risks we never fail or succeed; we don’t make progress. We need a little daring in our lives in order to embrace the full-range of human experiences – heartbreak, elation, sadness, exhilaration, love, empathy, and satisfaction.

Girls and women, in particular, receive many messages that they need to hold back; don’t be so aggressive; nice girls don’t shake things up; be silent or unobtrusive. We need to stop tiptoeing through life just so we can make it safely to death.

So why are some people more daring than others? It’s partly in our biology – the craving of dopamine – but daring people are also not afraid to fail. Successful people fail more than the average person. They do not give up when they fail and they do not take failure personally. Some classic examples come to mind:

Colonel Sanders: Turned down 1,009 times before a restaurant said they would try his secret chicken recipe.

Thomas Edison: Tried 10,000 experiments before he invented the light bulb.

Dr. Seuss: His first children’s book was rejected by 23 publishers; the 24th publisher sol 6 million copies of it.

Henry Ford: Suffered failed businesses and bankruptcy before his automobile business took hold.

Success is simply getting up one more time than you fall down. You haven’t failed until you stop getting up! I remember hearing a preofessional speaker, this beautiful black man with a lot of charisma, say, “When I fall, I land on my back…so that I can keep my eye focused on where I want to go…and that is up!”

Having fun can help us to be daring. Everything around us is geared towards achievement. Sometimes we forget to play…and learning to play can help us take that first step towards being daring. Instead of sending the kids into the bouncy-house, get in there with them. Hop on the trampoline; go down the bunny hill on the ski slopes with them. It’s daring to let that inner child come out. It keeps you young and yearning for more opportunities to experience life and grow. Find your inner daring girl. (And believe me, your friends are just waiting for you to ask; they, too, want to come out and play.)

Speaking of children, we learn so much from them when it comes to dreaming anything your heart desires. That child-like innocence that anything is possible does free up our fears and limiting beliefs to imagine anything. Every successful athlete that I know of ha spent time visualizing the perfect basket or play well before the game. Make time each morning and evening to dream about the desires of your heart. Dreams attract us to our experiences and results in our lives. WRITE THEM DOWN – PUT THEM IN BLACK AND WHITE AND READ OFTEN! All things are created twice: first in your mind and then in your life!

Be Daring: WHEN?

When is the best time to be more daring? How ‘bout right now! Risk everyday. Wear a color you’ve never worn before. Talk to the person next to you in the grocery stand. Make taking risks a habit. Feel the fear and do it anyway; don’t wait for that stroke of confidence to hit before you strike. It comes AFTER you strike. If you strike out, nothing is ever wasted; now you have wisdom if not wisdom and a win.

We all get stuck it that “I’ll do it when” mode…always making excuses for not going after our dreams and dares. Most people I talk to are excited about pursuing their dreams. They really get into the juicy details of how they want their life to look, what they want to be doing, the difference they want to make to others, what values they want to honor, where they want to be living, and then……..

The bad economy comes into play. Or their retirement. Or what their spouse, parents, children or boss think they should do. Or why they can’t change jobs. Or any other possible aspect of why they can’t pursue their dreams right now. O.K., sometimes there truly are limitation placed upon us or we do have responsibilities we can’t ignore. The good news is that pursing dreams doesn’t have to be black-and-white. It’s a journey we take, not something that magically happens overnight. There are always options and different perspectives we can take to get started down the right path. It begins by deciding we are not going to get stuck any longer. Once we make that critical decision we can begin exploring limitless possibilities for getting where we want to go.

I read a great story recently on Diane Sawyer, main anchor women for Good Morning America. At the age of 17, she represented her state in America’s Junior Miss back in 1963. In the midst of all the exhausting rehearsals, and grueling interviews and photo sessions, there was one person who stood at the center – her psychological center anyway- and that was one of the judges: Catherine Marshall. Her sea-gray eyes seemed to have laser-like penetration when she talked to you. Just before the final night of competition, the pageant officials said that Catherine Marshall wanted to have a final word with all the contestants. What Diane Sawyer thought would be a pep-talk turned out to be words that would pierce her very soul and echo in her mind throughout her life.

She fixed her eyes upon these bright, energetic 17-year-old girls and said, “You have set goals for yourselves. I have heard them…but you have not set them high enough. You have talent and intelligence and a chance. I think you should take your goals and expand them. Think of the most you could do with your lives. Make what you do matter. Above all, dream big!” Diane Sawyer can still hear this wonderful woman prodding her to stretch further and no matter how big the dream, dream a little bigger still. All of us can now have those words of Catherine Marshall echoing in our ears.

Be Daring: HOW?

I love Helen Keller’s famous quote: “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” So how can we make our lives a daring adventure? It’s actually very simple. We need to change what we label as “risk.” Risk is nothing but a label and the reason why risk yields so much power over us is precisely because of that label. Labels equate images: (let’s do a little word play- I’ll give you a label and you give me the associated image.) Armani – expensive, fine suit. Ferrari – fast car. Nike – well-made running shoes. Risk – imminent danger….or journey or exploration or excitement! Change the label. Stop thinking of risk as just a one shot do or die situation. Instead, start thinking of risk as journey or exploration. It’s not just one shot, it’s a journey for the purpose of exploring a different path.

Daring to pursue your personal truth sets you free. If we are who we really are, we can say “no” to the roles that others try to place on us and we’ll be pulled in every possible direction. Don’t’ cheat yourself or the rest of us; be your true self.

As we get older, we feel that we’re too old to explore the simple things that would give us enjoyment in life. One of my greatest role models, Dixie, went back to graduate school in her 60’s and learned to play the piano in her 70’s. Make a list of things you’ve really wanted to do in your life but never got around to it. Don’t waste any more time and do something about it right now. Don’t allow the past to pollute your future; squeeze the most out of everyday. You will never be as young as you are right now! Get busy!

Answer the following question, “If you knew you could not fail, had the resources you needed and were supported by your family and friends, what would you do?” Track what you learn and don’t look back. You won’t achieve your goal in one giant leap. You may find yourself taking two steps forwards and one or two steps back. Embrace setbacks and learning opportunities along the way. Treat your goal like a huge playground; never stop exploring all the ways you can accomplish it and have fun along the way. Then, choose your next mission. Never stop reaching for something!

My favorite high school science teacher said it best: “You can either choose to rust out or flame out – it’s all a process of oxidation.” You choose!”

Dr. Liz Hale is a licensed clinical psychologist and a regular Studio 5 Contributor. Your comments and questions are welcomed! Please visit to add your thoughts to today’s discussion or learn more about her private practice.

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