In the midst of life’s twists and turns, one thing is certain: change is inevitable. And while many associate the midlife phase with stability and routine, it’s actually a perfect time to embrace risks and welcome the unknown. In this article, crunchy expert, ageing mentor and author Brenda Ackerman explores why embracing uncertainty during midlife can be incredibly rewarding and transformative.
When you think about taking risks, what pops into your head? For many of us, it’s usually big risks like skydiving or climbing like crazy. Basically, we associate risk-taking with daring and potentially dangerous actions. We often view risk-takers as reckless people and focus on the possible negative outcomes. However, the truth is that risk-taking is a very personal thing.
In the iconic ’80s film “Risky Business,” Tom Cruise danced his way through unpredictable escapades, proving that sometimes the greatest rewards lie just beyond our comfort zones. While we all may not be sliding and dancing across hardwood floors in our living rooms, I believe midlife is the perfect stage to embrace a different kind of risky business—the exhilarating world of personal growth and adventure.
As women in our mid-life journey, we often find ourselves standing at a crossroads, caught between the safety of routine and the allure of the unknown, however, it’s only by breaking free from the cocoon of safety that we can start afresh.
But still, even though many of us long for new adventures, most of the time we feel uncomfortable stepping out of our comfort zone and taking some risks.
For some of us, discarding old social rules, completing our caretaking role, and focusing on ourselves other than as biological creatures, may open new roads, but ultimately, our relationship with risk is a deeply personal journey.
It’s an intricate dance between our unique life circumstances, individual personality traits, and the dreams we hold dear. While some may become more daring in their pursuits, others may choose to prioritize stability.
In my earlier years, most of my fear would centre around what others might think, but in my 50s, I passed through something I like to call the “Rhett Butler Portal” where like Rhett, I simply “don’t give a damn” about what others think.
I look at my current place on the proverbial “hill of life” and there’s a fierce recognition that I’m on the other side of it, and it seems to be a faster walk down the back side of the hill.
But now I know that midlife is where accumulated wisdom has met newfound courage and find myself more willing and eager to try new things, pursue long-held passions, go on new adventures, and see new places because I know the clock is ticking, and my time is now – or never!
So, the willingness to take risks has become a potent force for me. But I haven’t been foolish about it – I believe there’s an art to risk-taking.
The art of risk-taking
Author Robert G. Allen is known for saying, “Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone.” Put another way, everything you want requires some level of risk. Basically, what he means is that in order to achieve our dreams and desires, we need to be willing to take some risks.
It can be a bit scary, I know, but trust me, it’s totally worth it! Taking risks can actually be one of the most fulfilling and exciting experiences in life. However, it’s not always easy. The fear of failure often holds us back from even giving it a shot. But hey, don’t let that stop you, going after what we truly want is definitely possible.
Risk-taking is an art that requires courage, calculated decision-making, and an ability to navigate uncertainty, especially in midlife. It refers to the skill, mindset, and approach one adopts when facing uncertain or challenging situations. It’s not merely about taking risks for the sake of it but rather about doing so strategically and purposefully.
It can be a transformative journey where we can harness our inner strength and courage to pursue our dreams and aspirations, even when it seems daunting. It’s about having the confidence to step outside your comfort zone and confront challenges head-on. It allows you to conquer your fears.
I would encourage women to navigate this phase of life with a sense of adventure, curiosity, and fearlessness, knowing that taking well-considered risks can lead to profound personal and professional growth.
How do you get the courage to take risks?
There’s this common belief that self-confidence is the magic ingredient for taking risks. But guess what? That’s not always true. Just because you believe you won’t fail doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll take more risks. It’s actually more about having faith in the end result.
Part of the art of risk-taking is recognizing that not every risk will yield the desired results. Embracing failure as a valuable learning experience is crucial. It’s about understanding that setbacks are stepping stones toward growth and when faced with challenges, it’s about staying committed to your goals, being resilient and bouncing back.
Of course, the art of risk-taking is not reckless behaviour but rather taking calculated risks. This means carefully evaluating the potential outcomes, weighing the pros and cons, and making an informed choice. As you navigate the intricate landscape of mid-life, you’ll soon realise that your willingness to take risks evolves with time.
According to Kayt Sukel, author of The Art of Risk: The New Science of Courage, Caution & Chance “Risk is in the eye of the beholder. A successful risk-taker is a planner. Definitely not brash and reckless. We often talk about impulsivity and risk-taking in the same breath. But research shows they are clearly different things. Successful risk-takers don’t just look at immediate outcomes. They make moves that will help them reach their long-term goals“.
Ask yourself what it is costing you to not take the risk. You may be protecting your security and maintaining the status quo, but it may be costing you your relationships, your creativity, your happiness and fulfilment, and your sense of aliveness.
Ultimately, risk-taking is a vehicle for personal growth and self-discovery. It allows you to push your boundaries, discover your strengths and weaknesses, pursue your dreams, and unlock your full potential.
Why we need to embrace change in midlife
With age comes a treasure trove of experiences—some jubilant, others challenging. These life lessons give us a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us. As a result, the fear of taking risks begins to diminish because we gain confidence from the knowledge that our past experiences have equipped us with the tools to navigate uncertainty.
We become less concerned with the opinions of others and more accepting of failure as a vital part of the learning process. This resilience emboldens us to take risks with a greater sense of self-assuredness.
Much like fine wine, our risk outlook matures because we grow wiser and more self-conscious of the women we’ve become.
Midlife often ushers in a sense of financial stability, too. Many of us have diligently saved for retirement, paid off debts, and built a comfortable nest egg. Financial security acts as a safety net, allowing us to take calculated risks without the looming spectre of financial catastrophe.
So, considering all the life experience under your belt, don’t put yourself in a position where you will regret that you didn’t take some risks in your life. Stretch yourself, and make yourself uncomfortable; you’re only growing.
Starting a new chapter in midlife
Midlife is an opportunity—an opportunity to embrace our past, accept our present, and welcome our future with open arms. I know, taking a risk will be scary sometimes but please, don’t have any more “would-a, should-a, could-a’s” in your life as you will only regret the chances you didn’t take.
You always have a choice. You can sit and wonder what your life could have been like, if only you took a couple of risks, or you can do something about it while you still have the chance. When your journey comes to an end, you’re going to find out that it’s not what you “did” that you regret the most, it’s most likely what you didn’t do.
So, think it through, be prepared and go for it!