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Posted: June 22, 2012

Risky business

Time to step outside the comfort zone

Teri Karjala

I was honored recently to serve as a panelist for the Girls Athletic Leadership School.  The panel spoke at the Girls Recognizing Outstanding Women event.

At the event, an attendee asked me an interesting question, “Do you feel that you take risks in your business and, if so, what was the last risk you took?”  

The last risk I took? As a business owner, I feel as though I take risks all the time. Some risks have been carefully planned out while others have been, well let’s just say, a little more haphazard. The common denominator, though, is this: I rely a lot on faith, a faith in myself, and faith in my ability to make decisions, no matter the risk.

This faith has grown stronger with each roll of the dice and has undergone an evolution all its own as it gradually shifts to sure-footed knowledge — the knowledge that things will and always do work out.

So that’s how I answered the question: “I take risks all the time; some are calculated and others are not.” Often I find myself at the other end of the continuum just jumping in, “Ready or not here I go!” I start by trusting in myself, then following through with decisions by trusting that things will somehow fall into place. This process is not always easy, as fear and doubt are bound to make themselves heard even in the most confident of minds.

Most don’t understand this process. Frankly, my ability to make choices without having all the answers beforehand is a characteristic that drives some of my business partners crazy. They straight-up wonder how I can.

Furthermore, teaching others to take risks can be equally challenging, especially those who have a hard time venturing outside of their comfort zone.    

It is important to recognize that in taking a chance and stepping outside our comfort zone we may not always experience immediate success. We will sometimes fall in order to learn how to get back up and do it a little bit differently the next time. As Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I have merely found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Thomas Edison and others like him who have taken tremendous risks inspire me daily.  People, such as Napoleon Hill, Rosa Parks, Amelia Earhart and Abraham Lincoln, to name just a few, have had a tremendous impact on the world around them. One commonality that I have found in studying influential and successful individuals is that that they all took fierce risks, not always knowing how it was going to pan out.  

Years ago, my business mentor told me about a Harvard research study that interviewed a group of 80-year-olds to determine what they would do if they could live their life over again. The top two answers were: 1) spend more time with friends and family and 2) take more risks.

I’m choosing to take more risks!

Here are some ways to begin taking more risks:

Get out of your comfort zone. We all have a range of behaviors, feelings, and attitudes that we feel comfortable within. It’s human nature to stay within this zone and rarely step into unknown territory. So the first thing that I advise people to do is to take one small step everyday outside it. For example, if you dread or usually avoid making a “cold call,” make just one today. The more you grow and expand your comfort zone the easier it is to take bigger steps outside of the comfort zone.

Mind Map®*.  Mind Mapping is a brainstorming tool to help you to identify and examine all possibilities (learn more). You never know what might come up that you haven’t thought of before, including all the possible resources for making it happen.

Educate yourself on whatever it is that you fear (chances are that it’s not that scary at all). I was once told to think of the worst case scenario and if you can live with that then go for it!  Again, that is the “worst case” and chances are that you will be far from that point.

Write down all your “successes” of getting out of your comfort zone to reference when doubt, fear, or uncertainty sets in. Here’s the proof you can do it again!

Create a tenacious “Can Do” attitude. Start surrounding yourself with people that share a similar outlook that ANYTHING is possible!


Teri Karjala is owner of the Creative Counseling Center, LLC, as well as Talking With Teri, LLC. Teri’s passion for the business aspects of owning and maintaining a business has made her a sought out coach by others in the helping fields. She is a regular columnist for ColoradoBiz Magazine and speaks to therapists across the nation in building their thriving practice. Recently she has released her “How to Live Deliciously” Creative Journal Series to help inspire and empower adults, teens, and children. These are available in print at

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