Some people just aren’t born to be badasses. According to a new study in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, risk-takers are more likely to have a particular gene related to dopamine—the brain chemical connected with reward-seeking tendencies—than those who play it safe.
Researchers studied almost 500 skiers and snowboarders and found that people with this particular marker were more likely to agree with thrill-seeking statements like “I like to go down runs I’ve never been down before” than those without the gene. While the connection is there, the researchers say it’s really more of an association than anything else.
Here’s the thing: black diamonds, bungee jumps, and one-way tickets to Italy aren’t for everyone. But there are some risks you should always take—no matter your genetics. Here are three.
Follow Your Passion
In an ideal world, you’d quit your boring job for something you’re passionate about. The problem: Jumping ship to give windsurfing lessons for a living could leave you broke—only to discover that getting on a board is the last thing you want to do anymore, says Katy Tynan, author of Survive Your Promotion.
The risk: Test the waters. Set up informational interviews in the industry you want to be in. Have a buddy who did a 180 on his career? Ask him what worked, and what he wishes he’d done differently. “Find out what it’s really like to be a sword swallower before you buy the swords and join the circus,” Tynan says. Like what you hear? Take a leave of absence from work and spend 6 months trying it out, says Tynan. That way you have a clear timeframe and a job at the end of the road if things don’t work out.
Face a Fear in the Gym
“As a former chubby kid I was never able to do a full chin-up during testing in gym class and stayed away from all gymnastics-type movements in favor of a heavy barbell,” says BJ Gaddour, C.S.C.S. and owner of StreamFit.com. Today? He’s mastered those movements—and helped us create an intense DVD series that’s chock full of them. (Check out Speed Shred now!)
The risk: Pick something active that you’ve always stayed away from, and learn how to do it. Keep track of your progress by setting small goals, instead of focusing on the end result. It will help increase your motivation by feeding your reward system each time you meet a goal, according to research in the Journal of Consumer Research.
Talk to a Random Woman—in Broad Daylight
Using booze to fuel a convo with a beauty at a bar isn’t an adrenaline pumping activity—it’s a way to escape your fear of doing it sober, says Adam LoDolce, dating expert and founder of GoTalkToHer.com. While blindly walking up to a woman on the street is nerve-racking, most women actually prefer to meet men this way, he adds.
The risk: Commit to approaching one woman out of the blue, whether she’s walking the street, hanging out in the park, or shopping at Whole Foods. Keep your opening line to something about your surroundings—it guarantees immediate conversation—or simply introduce yourself. “You might just be surprised how receptive women are to such a confident attempt,” LoDolce says.
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