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How Do You View Risk?

How Do You View Risk

If you’re not living the life you truly desire, what is it that keeps you from doing so? For many people, change represents a risk, and big change can represent an unacceptable degree of risk.

What kind of risk?

The risk that things will not work out the way we want them to.  In other words, fear of the unknown. Whether we like our current reality or not, there’s a certain amount of security attached to doing things we’re familiar with.

On the other hand, trying something new in order to improve our life creates room for a lot of what-ifs.  What if I try and fail? What if I invest my time and energy and things don’t work out.  What if I commit to this new relationship and it falls apart? The phrase “what if” automatically implies that risk is involved.

Anytime we think about trying new ways to improve our lives, questions are going to arise.  How we respond to those internal questions will determine whether we are willing to take risks or not.

Every new opportunity has some risk attached to it.

Whenever we venture outside of what’s familiar, we encounter the unknown.  Why do some people get excited about trying new things, while others fear them?  What’s the difference between excitement and fear?

Much depends on whether you are primarily pessimistic or optimistic.  For a pessimist, the negative what-ifs represent a stronger influence on their perspective.  The possibility that things will go wrong creates fearful expectation and an unacceptable degree of risk.

Courage or emotional anchors

Some might say that this is a lack of courage, but that’s not entirely accurate.  It really has more to do with the emotional anchors related to risk.  When past efforts have failed to produce the desired result, it’s easy to develop a response pattern based on past performance.  Internally, our emotional dialogue says, “Nothing like this has ever worked out before, why should I risk another failure?”

On the other hand, the optimist may have a history of successes, which helps him to maintain a positive perspective.  He associates trying new things with producing exciting results.  For the optimist there is more opportunity than risk associated with the unknown.  This does not mean that he is more courageous than the pessimist.  It just means that his emotional anchors are different.  His internal dialogue says, “every time I try something new it turns out great, why should this be any different?”

Changing our response patterns

So, are we to conclude that our past performance will always dictate our view of the unknown?  Can we change our viewpoint from pessimistic to optimistic?

We certainly can, all we need to do is change our perspective.  Is the glass half full or half empty?  It depends on which half you focus on.  Does trying something new represent too much of a risk, or is it an exciting opportunity? Again, It depends on what you focus on.

If you focus on the opportunity, it will expand.  You will begin to notice new possibilities that you never saw before.  The more you focus on those possibilities the more optimistic you will become. Eventually, acceptable levels of risk will feel like a new opportunity.

Being optimistic does not remove the risk

Remember, every opportunity has risk involved.  It’s not about removing the risk; it’s a matter of changing our perspective.  We don’t want to deny that there’s risk involved. But we don’t want to see the risk as a fearful expectation of failure or loss either.  Blind optimism is no better than paralyzing pessimism.

We need to achieve balance in our view of risk, while still maintaining a positive perspective.  If our past efforts have not produced the desired result, then we should examine why.  There’s always a reason.  Once we understand the reason, we can take steps to change the results we produce.

The power of logic

Asking why something happened introduces logic into the equation.  This is a great way to destabilize unwanted emotional anchors.  The more you ask why, the less emotionally rooted the whole experience becomes. Past experiences do not determine future results.  Response patterns can be changed.  Used correctly, logic can help us to achieve that.

Our emotions are among our most powerful resource. Learning to use reason and logic to direct that power gives us the best possible results and the most balanced view of risk.

Do you think most opportunity involves risk?
Do you let risk prevent you from seizing opportunities?
The Lines are open!

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31 Comments

  1. EM November 4, 2008 Reply

    It is important to honestly evaluate risk. And always keep in mind that almost all of us have a gut-reaction to avoid risk…it is an survival response I suppose. That little part of you that says “I am not being eaten by a lion right now…but if I get out of the tree that may change…”.

    • Jonathan March 19, 2011 Reply

      Hey E, apparently the lion trainer in the picture at the top wasn’t very good at evaluating risk!

  2. Frank J September 10, 2009 Reply

    Risk is a chance, but how much of a chance should you take. Think twice before you lay your life bets down.

    • Jonathan September 15, 2009 Reply

      Hey Frank, I agree. In reality, almost everything involves some degree of risk. We need to be bold but reasonable.

  3. Zuzanna September 10, 2009 Reply

    Hello, Jonathan

    Life itself is risky too. With many bacteria’s in the air, pollutions, traffic, luck of monetary means all accumulates to risk. Driving a car, it is also a risk. Therefore, if we are able to overcome the fear of facing life each day the risk factor will diminish.

    • Jonathan September 15, 2009 Reply

      Good point Zuzanna, in fact it seems to be getting riskier every year. Still beats the alternative though!

  4. Rocket Bunny September 10, 2009 Reply

    I believe every challenge or failure is an opportunity.
    Too many people see things only in black and white. They have to have a feeling of safety but as the person commented before me said there are risks involved in everything we do but it doesn’t stop us from driving or flying. We take that for granted we are in control of those situations but we aren’t.
    If you fall off a horse, you get back on it immediately or you risk the chance of becoming afraid for the rest of your life.
    Taking chances should be as easy as long as you are using common sense and taking responsibility of your own actions.

    • Jonathan September 15, 2009 Reply

      You said it all Bunny, thank you!

      • pietro gavriel July 5, 2012 Reply

        All you have said is true, this makes me believe that every thing in the world is all about choices.

  5. Mark Lewis September 11, 2009 Reply

    I too believe there is an abundance of opportunity in everything. The toughest part is realizing that opportunity, often in the midst of irrational thinking. Like everything, it comes with practice.

    • Jonathan September 15, 2009 Reply

      Hi Mark, when it comes to opportunity I like this quote: “The reason most people don’t recognize opportunity is because it often comes disguised as hard work.” Thanks Mark!

  6. Coach Rosie September 21, 2009 Reply

    Ooooogh! I think that is my ‘favouritist’ quote this year! “The reason most people don’t recognize opportunity is because it often comes disguised as hard work.” I shall be stealing it!

    • Jonathan March 19, 2011 Reply

      Go ahead and steal it Rosie, I did (well, sort of). It is based on a quot by Thomas A. Edison.

  7. Steve Borgman October 26, 2009 Reply

    There are two ways to look at risk. What can I gain from taking this risk? What can I lose by NOT taking this risk? On the other hand it would be foolish not to also look at the other sides of the coin: What can I lose from taking this risk and what can I gain by being prudent. I guess it’s what you would call old fashioned cost-benefit analysis. I have been on both sides of risk, and I believe that the golden mean is the best way to approach it.

    • Jonathan March 19, 2011 Reply

      Hey Steve, certainly balance plays an important role in the decision making process, But so do confidence and courage.

  8. Galen Pearl June 27, 2012 Reply

    Everything we do or don’t do involves risk. I don’t think there is such a thing as not taking risk. But the way we normally think about risk sometimes makes it sound reckless. I know that is not what you mean. I like this poem by Anais Nin–“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to Blossom.” I lived this.

    • Jonathan July 18, 2012 Reply

      Hi Galen, it’s is so important to recognize that “everything we do involves risk.” The ridiculous notion that life inside the comfort zone is risk free is a belief that keeps people from pursuing their dreams.

  9. Anne June 28, 2012 Reply

    People can also be so comfortable in their present lives – even if the lives they lead are pretty rotten – that they’re scared of change. They’d rather wallow in ‘what they know’ even if it causes them unhappiness, than make a change and step out in the ‘dark’.

    You’re right that optimists view risks differently. Cowards also view risks differently. They may see a cat and call it a lion, where risks are concerned.

    I ‘m definitely with you when it comes to past experiences. They really do not determine the outcome of future endeavours.

    It may help to take small steps to change and risk, rather than look at the ‘big picture’. This can be pretty scary and overwhelming. Start by taking the first tiny step to get where you want to be. Divide the ‘journey’ into four parts and don’t think of the second part until the first is completed. Great article.

    • Jonathan July 18, 2012 Reply

      Hi Anne, that is excellent advice for conquering a fear of venturing outside the comfort zone. Turn those smaller “parts” into milestones and focus on one at a time. Before you know it you are well on your way.

  10. breian June 29, 2012 Reply

    “Being optimistic does not remove the risk”
    A lot of personal development programs forget to state this fact.

    • Jonathan July 18, 2012 Reply

      Hi Trying, what it does do is changes our perception of the risk and reframes it into a more manageable concept.

  11. Ken Wert July 2, 2012 Reply

    Risk is a subjective thing. To some, it’s financially risky to invest in the stock market, for example. They feel much more secure with their money in a bank account, FDIC insured. To others, putting money into a bank account is about as helpful as stuffing it under your mattress. To them, NOT investing is financially risky.

    We also consider the benefit of the risky behavior. Some risk is risky for its own sake. Thrill seekers thrive on the adrenaline rush of life-risking activities. Others look at what benefit may be derived from the risk they’re considering taking.

    But in the end, most every opportunity has some risk attached to it. For me, if the risk can lead to great things or insight or personal growth with a risk level that is no more than embarrassing or regretful, I’ll likely give it a go. If it has a high likelihood of being fatal, I’ve got my family that factors into the equation and will less likely take that risk.

    • Jonathan July 18, 2012 Reply

      Hey Ken, I totally appreciate your balanced words of wisdom. I especially appreciate the fact that you factor in your family and your responsibility to them. Balance is always the key!

  12. Susan July 4, 2012 Reply

    What’s the worst thing that could happen? It depends on the risk. I decided to take the risk of going back to college, and I still haven’t found any benefit to it as far as my employment opportunities. Even though I accumulated a lot debt by doing this, the bright side to this is that as I near retirement age and my mortality I know that all of this debt will be wiped away when I pass on. There is one good thing I learned when my mother-in-law died and that is, “All debt is forgiven at this point in anyone’s life.” See, there is a bright side to all situations, you just have to look for it.

    • Jonathan July 18, 2012 Reply

      Hi Susan, well, that is certainly one way of looking at the big picture. :)

  13. Ashleen Moreen July 9, 2012 Reply

    If we do not think wisely to do the things that we know that it may risk us it will probably risks you. This is a great post that consists of many advices and lessons to learn. Thanks a lot for sharing this to us.

  14. Henri July 13, 2012 Reply

    Henri Ford said “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goals”.
    Reading your article, I thought this could also go for risks.

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