To Risk or Not to Risk? Four Steps to (Smart) Risk-Taking

cartoon character looking at risk sign and safe sign, wondering where to go

The world is full of people who like to play it safe and people who like to take risks. The former do so because they’ve calculated the odds of success and failure, and deemed the rewards not worth taking the chance. The latter—the risk-takers—just say, “What the heck, I’ll go for it!” In the grand scheme of things, neither proclivity is truly wrong. But if you crack open any history book, guess which kinds of people populate the pages?

Julius Caesar was a risk-taker in his conquests in Rome, and now we eat a salad named after him. Alexander Hamilton was a risk-taker in forging this country, and now there’s a musical about him. Afghani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai was a risk-taker when she fought for the right to an education, and now she’s got a Noble Peace Prize. And sure, risk-takers fail as often as they succeed (if not more). But you can’t say they’re not living boldly!

Risk-Taking: A Breakdown

Believe it or not, risk-taking as a personality trait has been explored and analyzed, and plenty of insight into it has been gained. For example, risk-taking behaviors can be more pronounced or dialed down depending on various factors like gender or age. In addition, women were found to be more risk-averse when it comes to finances.

Risk-taking behaviors also change as you get older. Thus, it’s easy to understand why a young adult in his 20s will engage in adrenaline-pumping activities such as bungee-jumping or quit a job to create his own startup company.

Nonetheless, personality is still the best predictor of inclination to take risks. It’s safe to say that if you’re already a risk-taker, you’re likely to be one forever. The lens that you use to assess situations and your perception of losses versus gains are highly dependent on your character and nature.

risk taker hanging upside down from monkey bars

When there’s a need to make a decision, a risk taker will tap on intuitive thinking. A risk-averse person, on the other hand, will assess options and check possible outcomes before arriving at a decision. Furthermore, our biases and prejudices impact how we interpret information. A risk taker will more likely focus on gains when making decisions. On the other end of the spectrum, a risk-averse person whose focus is on preventing losses is apt to make choices with little to no risk.

Four Steps to (Smart) Risk-Taking

Our openness—or close-mindedness—to risk is never final. Depending on goals and available resources, one goes through life with a shifting attitude towards risk-taking. If you are currently looking to advance certain areas of your life, it might be time to start taking risks. Here are some steps on how to start:

1. Map out the risks you are willing to take

Remember that taking risks requires time, energy and money. Ask yourself how much of your resources you are ready to gamble to achieve your goals. Doing this will help you avoid burning all your resources pursuing a potentially lost cause.

2. Get out of our comfort zone one step at a time

Taking risks doesn’t have to be hurried and clumsy. You can start by stretching your risk-taking “muscles” little by little. For instance, maybe you want to start a craft store. You can start by sharing pictures of your sample work on social media among your friends.

3. Take note of the opportunities presented by people around

We often look for opportunities outside our circle. Take risks by letting your immediate circle know that you are exploring possibilities. They may be able to help point you to the right connections.

4. Make a positive change in your relationship with ideas.

Do not immediately shut out an idea—even if it may sound far-fetched. Our mind has the tendency to edit ideas prematurely and cancel them immediately. Give your ideas a chance to germinate first and allow them to grow into possibilities. If an idea doesn’t evolve into a great idea after going through many ruminations, then that’s when you should consider kicking it to the curb.

Risk Taker or Not—Go and Live a Bold Life

Under no circumstance can one type of thinking be claimed as better than the other. Nor should one person’s attitude towards risk be compared to another. When faced with decisions, one person can be cautious and prudent while another can be carefree, spontaneous and adventurous. Moreover, one can make daring choices in social and recreational life but also be circumspect when it comes to financial decisions.

The purpose of intimately knowing your attitude towards risk is to help you live a bold life by striking a balance—to find that sweet spot where risks are manageable and where opportunities to grow are available. After all, regardless of whether a person is audacious or cautious, there will always be a risk.

About the Author

Imee Rabang is a blogger/writer and bilingual poet from Manila, Philippines. She is an advocate of Philippine culture and supports causes that promote language and national identity. She juggles her time between work, parenthood, and community outreach programs. She also dabbles in photography and graphic arts in her free time.
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