Taking a Big Risk / by helen cowan

After nearly 18 years in a well paid job I really enjoy at a brilliant firm with people I consider friends I have resigned.  For me, and I guess for most people, this constitutes taking a BIG risk.  

Why would I do this?  In short, my great job just wasn’t enough anymore.  I had a strong sense that I had to go and focus on my own coaching business and if I didn’t do it now I would never have the courage.  Staying in the same job seemed like a good and easy option, but I could not ignore the need to take the more ambitious route, the less trodden path.   I had not experienced this compelling urge for a very long time.  In fact, the last time was 18 years ago when I was applying to join the very firm I was resigning from.  And the feeling just would not go away, however much I tried to ignore it.  I agonised, going over and over the same question: “What will happen when I do this?”.  My fundamental, often deeply ingrained beliefs almost always pointed to the WORST that could happen.  These beliefs included:

  • I am deeply risk averse and this is good.  Growing up in a professional services firm means this has been my training for the last 18 years.  Do not take a risk unless you are reasonably sure of the outcome.
  • I come from a family where no one ever resigns.  Ever.  Most of my family have (happily) been in the same job for decades so I told myself “no one you know does this”.
  • I am not a natural entrepreneur.  Again, no one in my family is.  I know nothing about life outside of a steady pay cheque and generous benefits.
  • We live in uncertain times so stay safe.  Who knows what will happen to the economy and my client base?  Shocks seem to come from every direction these days.  I am a catastrophiser by nature – how will I manage?

If you have read some of my other blogs you will recognise these as fundamental limiting beliefs; beliefs that are there to protect us but can also hold us back from change.  They root us down, tether us to what we know.  These beliefs seem to keep a warm protective arm around us but curiously this arm can transform into quite a vice-like grip when challenged. 

A lot of brilliant coaching, financial analysis (with the help of my accountant husband) and chats with good friends helped me to gradually address the balance between the worst that could happen and the best.  And there were three questions asked of me that stand out.  I share them here for anyone else who is considering taking that BIG risk:

  1. “What are you really risking by doing this?”  This made me assess the possibilities and the true worst that could happen was, in the cold light of day, not really that bad
  2. “What would it feel like to see this as a chance rather than a risk?”.  I love this question.  The very definition of the word “chance” suggests there is inherent opportunity:  NOUN chance: A possibility of something happening.  "There is a chance of winning the raffle".  Seeing my situation in this way made me want to move closer to the decision and so my thinking pivoted towards “if I don’t do it I will miss out!”.
  3. And finally, “What would the girl 18 years ago advise you to do now?”.  This one was the killer question and it made me well up as the answer was so blindingly obvious.  And so here I am taking the chance...