What are the characteristics of "risk-takers", "on the edge" individuals who climb the highest mountains, sail around the world alone at age 16, take an idea from the garage to the global market...?
They are not overly preoccupied with making mistakes or with social disapproval; they are able to tolerate the anxiety of separateness,
They have a strong enough ego to admit when they are wrong or in trouble, and
They analyze, emotionally experience and learn from trial and error. And with this foundation, "creative persons are precisely those who take the tasks that make them anxious"
Four Steps for Creative Risk-Taking
Here are key steps and strategies for developing your "Creative Risk-Taking" potential:
- Aware-ily Jump in Over Your Head. Only by jumping into the fray can you quickly discover how adequate your resources are with respect to the novel challenge ahead. This approach precludes a strategy that eliminates all risk in advance. (Okay, check to see if there are any alligators in the water.) You may need to encounter realistic anxiety, exaggerated loss of control and even some feelings of humiliation to confront your "Intimate FOE." But often the reward for the risk is a unique readiness to build knowledge, emotional hardiness and skills for survival, along with evolving imaginative mastery.
- Strive to Survive the High Dive. There's no guarantee when grappling with new heights or depths, but four fail-safe measures come to mind: a) strive high and embrace failure -- failure is not a sign of unworthiness, but a learning margin between perfection and achievement, especially as one explores the fine line between vision and hallucination, b) develop a realistic time frame -- recognize that many battles are fought and lost before a major undertaking is won, c) be tenaciously honest -- continuously assess the impact of outcomes, changes within yourself and your environment, and the rules underlying your operation, d) establish a support system -- have people in your life who provide both kinds of TLC: Tender Loving Criticism and Tough Loving Care.
- Thrive On Thrustration. Learn to incubate or be stuck between thrusting ahead with direct action and frustration. Creativity often requires being more problem-minded than solution-focused. Increasing tension or "thrustration" (Rabkin) can shake the habituated, settled mind and may transform a dormant subconscious into an active psychic volcano -- memories, novel associations and symbolic images overflow into consciousness. You're in position to generate fertile problem-solving alternatives. Problems are not just sources of tension and frustration, but are opportunities for integrating the past and the present, the conscious and the unconscious, the obscure and the obvious. Here lies creative perspective.
- Design for Error and
Opportunity. Innovative and risk-taking individuals and organizations are more attuned to a range of possibilities than to fixed or ideal goals. These systems prefer the risk of initiation and experimentation to preoccupation over deviation or imperfection. Floundering through a sea of novelty and confusion often yields new connections, long-range mastery and an uncommon big picture. A narrow, safe course creates the illusion of achievement and short-lived control. Of course, limited predesign means opportunity for errors. In open people and systems, startup misplays are vital signs for self-correcting and self-challenging feedback.
Remember, errors of judgment or design don't signify incompetence; they more likely reveal inexperience or immaturity, perhaps even boldness. Our so-called "failures" can be channeled as guiding streams (sometimes raging rivers) of opportunity and experience that so often enrich -- widen and deepen -- the risk-taking passage. If only we can immerse ourselves in these unpredictable yet, ultimately, regenerative waters.
Mark Gorkin is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, speaker, trainer and "Online Psychohumorist," known as "The Stress Doc." Specialty areas: organizational change and conflict, team building, creativity and humor.