Risk-taking - Get Your Feet Wet!

We often use the phrase, "Get Your Feet Wet" when we are just beginning to learn how to do something or are about to pioneer a new initiative. When we participate in a project for the first time, there is usually a hesitancy to step out into the unknown.

There's no better way to learn than by doing. This requires that we move away from our comfort zones and step out into the unknown, which usually exceeds our reach and makes us stretch to get it.

Stepping Out Into the Unknown

The unknown elicits strong emotional responses, the chief of which is fear. We're afraid to take chances or that we will make mistakes. While mistakes are embarrassing, they can be used to jumpstart and enhance our learning. Other reactions to the unknown include:

  • Hesitancy. Being cautious and tentative; playing it safe.
  • Discouragement. Disappointment and worry; backing up and settling for less than our best.
  • Pessimism. Focusing on the problems and challenges instead of the solutions and opportunities.

While the above list is not all inclusive, it is helpful in understanding our emotional response to the unfamiliar?strange?mysterious?uncharted territory. To step out into the unknown requires courage, commitment and conviction.

How to Get Your Feet Wet at Work

  • Courage. Prepare for your next challenge or opportunity by doing your homework. Learn as much as you can and apply that learning when working in indeterminate assignments or dealing with vague requests. Take a leap of faith into the unknown and just do it. Don't wait until everything is perfect and you are entirely ready-physically, emotionally, and financially. You'll never be absolutely and totally ready or ultimately prepared. Most times, you just have to begin, so build up your courage and take the plunge!
  • Commitment. Once you've decided to do it, dedicate yourself to accomplishing the task. It's a good idea to get your feet wet by completing smaller action steps related to the task in order to "test the waters" without expending all your effort and energy at once. In any event, start small and see what works. Make course corrections as necessary, and remain focused and committed to completing the task, overcoming the main challenge, or taking full advantage of the opportunity.
  • Conviction. Cultivate a passion and fervor for the task. Don't doubt or waver in your belief and confidence that you can succeed. Sure, you will make mistakes and encounter problems along the way, but you must be persuaded and have complete assurance that you can jump over these hurdles to achieve the goal.
  • Every day, you embark on a journey into the unknown and experience what seems like a lifetime lived in 24 hours. Don't be afraid to get your feet wet. Your first efforts may not be perfect, but you've got to start somewhere. Use the wisdom you gain from your experiences to strengthen your character and competence, and to prepare for future journeys.

    Althea DeBrule, entrepreneur and seasoned human resources executive, has focused for more than 30 years on helping people achieve their career goals. Creator of The Extreme-Career-Makeover? and a founding partner of RADSGroup Organizational Consultants, she is recognized for her bottom line and practical application of career development and management strategies in a way that penetrates hearts and compels action. She speaks and teaches with inspired talent, humor and contagious zeal at management conferences and leadership retreats nationwide, and has been featured in CFO Magazine, Strategy@Work, Human Resource Executive Magazine. Althea is the author of Bosses & Orchards, a compelling and candid book about how to make your work relationship with your boss succeed. To discover how you can take your career to a new level, visit http://www.extreme-career-makeover.com/

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