You’re now definitely an adult and have the freedom that comes along with that – including the freedom to take risks. But instead of simply focusing on the small risks with small rewards (yay for you – your new haircut looks fantastic), you should use your 20s to dare to take the big risks – the ones that will boost your integrity, up your experience and probably offer some pretty incredible rewards, such as getting you where you really want to go in your life.
No-one ever looked back on their life and said, “I wish I’d travelled less.” Now is the time to see as many places as you can, when all you need is one plane ticket and a backpack. Don’t get stuck in one place when you are in your 20s.
Apply for a job in a new country, go on a post-varsity gap year or apply to study German in Berlin. “Twenty-somethings should risk leaving home or the place they are familiar with while they have no commitments,” says Durban psychologist Claire Newton. “It’s the easiest time to do so.”
Risk Your Career
It’s not unthinkable that you knew exactly what career you wanted to get into when you started studying, and you’re just waiting for the position to pop up on a job listings website. But now is your chance to experiment with several different jobs – even if they are not in the industry you thought you’d be in. Truth is, you might end up in a career miles away from where you started – just ask Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, who started her career at the World Bank.
A few years down the line you might be hating your job and spending your week counting down to Friday. If you were to gain as much experience as you can now, you’re much more likely to find a love and aptitude for something you wouldn’t expect. “if you need to make ends meet as an au pair or barista for a time, fine, but also try to find a way to get more high-profile experiences on your CV,” says clinical psychologist Meg Jay, author of The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter – And How To Make the Most Of Them Now. “No one will start an interview off with, “So tell me about being an au pair.”’ Also think about what career rewards you would like the most. ‘Making lots of money and being passionate and fulfilled are not necessarily the same thing.’ Says Newton. ‘What reward are you looking for?’
And if you have a great idea for a business, get a mentor, crowd-fund some money and try to start your own business now, while you’ve got less to lose than you might when you are older.
Risk Love…and Loss
Your 20s are all about finding what you like and what you don’t. Try different things and that includes relationships. Date people you wouldn’t have thought were your type, move cities to be with someone you love, or make a grand romcom gesture to show someone your feelings. If it doesn’t work, you still have time to rewind. On the flip side, if you’re unhappy, risk moving on. Getting out of a bad relationship or friendship can be scary and it’s packed with uncertainty. Use your 20s to get rid of things that make you unhappy because it will only getter harder to do in time.
Hello, Risk? Is That You?
The problem with big risks is that they don’t often arrive at your door giftwrapped with a cute note explaining exactly what will happen if you take them. So how do you know if a big risk is going to be worth it? Most of the time the risks with the highest rewards are the ones that scare you the most. They’ll be the ones that create the biggest mixture of anxiety and excitement within you because they resonate with where you really want to be.
When you feel that, don’t let the anxiety stop you; it’s just uncertainty. And you can fight uncertainty with information. ‘Uncertainty arises as a result of information that is missing, ambiguous, unreliable or complex,’ says Newton. “So do your research. Look into the pros and cons and (where appropriate) the financial implications of the venture. Find out as much as you can about what you are letting yourself get into, then use that information to make a wise decision.’ You’ll soon find the apprehension can be a powerful pusher, so develop an impulse to turn anxiety into action.
When taking risks, these perceptions influence just how risky we think they’ll be. Consider these points before jumping in, says psychologist Claire Newton
‘The more control we believe we have, the less risk we believe we are taking,’ says Newton. For example, in the maritime industry, shore-based staff believe the risk of ship incidents is twice as great as crew members do.’
The amount of control you think you have may be real but it may be incorrect – thanks to over-confidence or lack of skills.
‘As realistically as possible consider just how must control you really have. Taking advice from someone with experience in the field is useful for this.’ If you have more control the anxiety for taking the risk will lessen.
‘The more a course of action appears to support a goal that we see as important or desirable, the less risky it will appear to be (or the more we will overlook the risk normally associated with it)’ says Newton. ‘An action will also appear to be of high value if it seems the easiest way to achieve a desired goal. But short cuts can end badly. Carefully consider how desirable the goal is and weigh it against the possible negative consequences of taking the risk.
‘The more a circumstance or action seems familiar, the less risky it will appear to be,’ says Newton. Question how familiar you feel with a situation. You might not need the familiarity to be able to take the risk but it will help you evaluate how much of your anxiety is based on real risk and how much is based on trying something totally new.
For real-life examples of taking risks search ‘DARE-TEGRITY’ at cosmopolitan.co.za