Many people grow up with frequent reminders to be careful. When friends part company, for example, they often say to each other, "Take care." This well-intended expression communicates endearment, concern, and support. However, reminders to take care can subtly inhibit your personal development and restrict your career advancement.

Taking care is one of the reasons why individuals and organizations take so long to change. Instead of engaging transitions with curious anticipation, people take care and wait. They take care and resist change. By cautiously taking care, they maintain the status quo.

Taking care is also why people refuse to resolve their conflicts. Instead of addressing a conflict promptly and directly, adversaries take care and avoid each other. By taking care, they extend their conflicts for a long, long time.

You can advance your career considerably if you do two things earlier: (a) engage your transitions earlier and (b) resolve your conflicts earlier. When people take care, they procrastinate these career-enhancing, action steps.

How Different Might You Be?
Pause for a moment to imagine how differently you might have developed, if caring people in your family had frequently affirmed to you, "Take risks!" instead of "Take care." How different would you be today, if people in your social circles would encourage you to take risks, instead of cautioning you to take care?

When you pause to consider how different you might be, do you focus on the up-side benefits of risk or on the down-side liabilities? Do you imagine that you might be fabulously successful if you took more risks? Or does the thought cross your mind that you might be seriously harmed, physically injured, or worse, if you took more risks?

When people have been trained to take care, they usually focus on the negative aspects of risk. They hesitate as if risk automatically involves danger. This is partly because our language confuses risk and danger. By discriminating between those two events, you can give yourself the freedom to take more risks without encountering danger.

Risk and Danger
Risk is when an outcome is uncertain. You make a decision or initiate action without knowing for sure what will happen.

For example, if you approach your long-standing adversary with an offer to reconcile, you don't know for sure what reaction you'll get. You don't know if your adversary will bark at you angrily, berate you, and shout at you to go away. Alternatively, you don't know if your adversary will hesitate and sheepishly mutter, "Er, uh, um, I'm, I'm glad you took the first step. I've been wanting to talk to you for a long time, too, but I didn't know how you'd react."

You don't know what the outcome will be. That's what makes it a risk. In contrast, danger is when your flesh will be torn.

This difference is easy to remember. Risk involves uncertainty. Danger involves physical damage.

Most workplace conflicts are not between dangerous, flesh-tearing people. Most organizational transitions do not expose you to flesh-tearing consequences. You can advance yourself at work by taking more risks without encountering danger.

Your Inner Alarms
When people avoid their conflicts or resist change, its usually not because of physical danger. People hesitate to take risks because they decorate their anticipations with alarming thoughts and vivid imaginations. They fill the uncertainty of risk with thoughts of flesh-tearing danger.

When you've been trained to take care, your thoughts, beliefs, and language generate colorful, flesh-tearing images even when there's no physical danger. Notice the inhibiting, violent connotations of these colorful expressions when you imagine interacting with your adversary.

1. "If I approached her, she'd bite my head off!"
2. "If I'm not careful, he'll tear me limb from limb!"
3. "I would just die!"
4. "I'd fall to pieces!"
5. "He'll explode!"

These phrases are alarming. They depict imaginary violence. Each connotes a lethal outcome. When you think those hot images, they will impel you to take care. You'll resist change. You'll avoid your adversary.

Crying Wolf with False Alarms
Pause to examine those alarming thoughts. Those alarms are actually false alarms. Those misguided figures-of-speech do not denote what actually happens when you approach an adversary at work. They're just your way of crying wolf to yourself. When you examine those false alarms, you can override their restrictive influences. Let's examine the evidence.

1. "If I approached her, she'd bite my head off!"
She isn't going to bite your head off. She can't. It's physically impossible. Contrary to your imagination, her mouth isn't big enough for your skull to fit in it.

2. "If I'm not careful, he'll tear me limb from limb!"
He's not going to separate your arms and legs from you torso. For him to tear your limbs apart, he would have to reach down, grasp your leg, and start tugging on it. He's not going to do that. He probably doesn't even want to touch you.

3. "I would just die!"
When you approach your adversary to talk, you aren't going to die. You will feel awkward, maybe uncomfortable. It will be a weird experience for you to initiate and maintain a constructive conversation with your adversary. Whether or not you resolve your differences, both of you will continue to live.

4. "I'd fall to pieces!"
This is self-deception. Have you ever seen anyone fall into little pieces? It simply doesn't happen. Nor do people actually pull themselves back together.

5. "He'll explode!"
Wouldn't it be phenomenal if he actually did explode? He can't. He may express his anger, but he never does explode. It isn't even possible for him to let off steam. Or to fly off the handle.

Can you think of similar, flesh-tearing expressions that you speak and think? What inhibiting expressions do your friends and co-workers utter?

You can review a longer list of alarming, inhibiting figures-of-speech by clicking here. You are welcome to contribute to this evolving list.

How Your Inner Alarms Prevent Your Progress
When you pause to inspect your vivid, flesh-tearing thoughts, you can recognize immediately that they're not actually true. However, just visiting those violent images will inhibit you from engaging uncertain situations. You will take care as a default.

When you cry wolf to yourself, you prevent yourself from realizing that there is no wolf. You block yourself from learning the skills to handle new situations competently. Your false alarms diminish your initiative, your confidence, your persistence, and your advancement.

Your inner alarms and your hot images are not designed to show you the truth. Your inner alarms function to keep you restricted to your proper place. You acquired many of your thoughts, beliefs, and images from people who imparted their notions about what was proper and improper for you. Automatically believing those thoughts will keep you confined to where your socializers thought you belonged.

When you risk, your past loses the authority to restrict your present. With coaching and encouragement, you can expand well beyond your proper place. You don't know, yet, how successful you'll become when you resolve your conflicts earlier and engage your transitions earlier. That's risk with awesome rewards for you.

For an illustration of false alarms during organizational transitions, click here.

How to Override Your False Alarms
When your vivid imagination automatically links risk with danger, both will be sources of intimidation. When you separate risk from danger, only danger retains its power to intimidate.

Your alarming thoughts have an impact on you only when you trust them--only when you automatically believe them. Instead of letting your false alarms automatically inhibit you, you can evaluate them. By deliberately examining the relevant evidence, you can override those victimizing thoughts.

Fortunately, you already have the necessary skills to override your inner alarms. Just employ the same, thoughtful strategies that you use when you hear external alarms. When a fire alarm blares in your building, or when a smoke detector goes off in your kitchen, you don't automatically rush away as if alarms always signal danger. That would be naive. When your smoke detector sounds, you deliberately survey the evidence.

If you check the situation and identify danger, you evacuate the building. However, after almost every alarm, you conclude that your flesh will not be injured. Instead of rushing away, you take action steps to approach, engage, and handle the circumstances that prompted the alarm. You use your wisdom to override the intense, obnoxious alarm.

When you approach an adversary or engage a transition, your inner alarm may be intense and obnoxious, too. When it starts up, apply your same, thoughtful strategies to survey the evidence. Separate danger from risk. First, assess danger. Then assess risk.

To assess danger when your inner alarm goes off, answer the same question that you answer when you hear an external alarm: "Will my flesh be damaged?" If you survey the evidence and determine that danger is likely, take steps to avoid the dangerous situation. Avoid dangerous, flesh-tearing situations unless you have special training, equipment, and incentive to manage the danger.

When you examine the evidence, you'll usually find no support for your inner alarms. You don't have to be certain about an outcome to be fully confident that your flesh will not be torn.

After you determine that danger is unlikely, then evaluate the evidence concerning risk. Examine the likelihood of possible outcomes. If the available evidence predicts positive possibilities, initiate your action steps. Get ready to reap the rewards that you will enjoy when you take more risks.

For a brief discussion of situations where you may confront actual, physical danger, click here.

When to Begin
You can apply your danger-free, risk-taking strategies immediately. The next time you part company, notice if the other person says, "Take care." Notice how mindlessly most people utter that phrase. Instead of replying, "Take care," surprise your friend by saying, "Take risks!"

As someone who cares, you can encourage your friends and teammates to take risks just as easily as you can caution them to take care. When you distinguish risk from danger, the thoughtful, encouraging affirmation, "Take risks," actually communicates more care and support than the thoughtless caution, "Take care."

As we close this virtual interaction, we don't part company with the sentimental "Take care." Listen to you inner voice. What do we affirm to each other as we virtually part company?

If you just heard your inner voice say, "Take risks," more power to you. You have just chosen to begin immediately. With deliberate attention and practice, you can embrace change, improve your relationships, and advance your career. TAKE R!SKS.

If you heard your inner voice automatically say, "Take care," it's just an old habit--a hold-over echoing from your past. With deliberate attention and practice, you can adopt new, powerful, career-enhancing thinking habits. TAKE R!SKS.

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