Your brain will try to convince you to play it safe. It will tell you that you can't succeed or that you shouldn't bother trying something new

But even when these thoughts lack a rational basis, we still sometimes allow our anxiety to prevail. Instead of thinking about what could be when we take a risk, we focus on "what if?" 

But risks don't have to be reckless.

And while avoiding all risk might seem like a smart way to manage anxiety, in the long run, playing it small is the perfect recipe for depression. 

The problem is that we often base our decisions on emotion rather than logic. We incorrectly assume that there's a direct correlation between our fear level and the risk level. 

But more often than not, our emotions are just not rational. If we truly understood how to calculate risk, we would know which risks are worth taking, and we would be a lot less fearful about taking them.

Whether you are afraid to take a big leap with your career, or you're terrified to take a small social risk like inviting an acquaintance out for coffee, learning to take healthy risks can open new doors and improve your life.

Sometimes, you need to take risks, challenge yourself, and try harder at things, if you want to grow stronger and become better.

Of course, not all risks are good risks. You only want to take the calculated risks that can truly improve your life (not just the risks that feel good now).

If you find yourself fearing to take healthy, calculated risks, then here are two strategies that can help:

1. Balance your emotions with logic.

Too often, we think our fear is directly related to the level of the risk. The scarier something feels, the riskier it must be. But that's not an accurate way to gauge risk. 

After all, driving a car probably doesn't feel risky. But giving a speech in front of a large crowd might feel like a huge risk. Yet your chances of injury or death are much higher when you're behind the wheel than if you're onstage.

So before you talk yourself out of doing something that feels risky, spend a few minutes thinking about the actual level of risk you are up against. Ask yourself, "What risk do I actually face? How can I handle it if it doesn't work out?"

2. Take steps to increase your chances of success.

There are lots of steps you can take to reduce the risk that you face. Maybe you decide to spend a lot of time practicing a speech before you deliver it. This could increase your chances of success.

Or maybe you decide to wait until your side hustle is consistently delivering income before you quit your day job and become an entrepreneur. This might be a wise, calculated risk to take.

So rather than spend time trying to decrease your fear about a risk, put your energy into increasing your chances of success. 

Embrace the fact that you might still feel afraid when you take the leap--and that's OK. Facing your fears is a key component in developing the mental strength you need to be your best.

Build Your Mental Muscle

Taking calculated risks is a great way to build mental strength. Doing things that scare you helps you learn to tolerate uncertainty and anxiety. It also provides you with a chance to sharpen your skills and learn from your mistakes. 

With practice, you can get better at calculating risk. And as you improve, your chances of success will skyrocket.

Published on: Jan 9, 2020
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.