It is in human nature to take risks. Ultimately, if nobody had ever taken any risk, it’s fair to say that we would still be living in caves as hunter-gatherers. Taking risks means making discoveries and progressing in your knowledge and ability. But the notion of risk has evolved to the point where it doesn’t only exist in a context of progress-seeking behaviours. A risk is a disruption of the accepted pattern of decisions and reactions; whether you decide to jump over the river instead of using the bridge or whether you choose to invest your savings in a brand new startup, risks come in many forms. At the heart of it, there’s a thrill. But when it is left unmanaged, the thrill can be fatal. This is, in short, the essence of risk: You could lose just as much if not more than you could win. So how can you best learn to manage your risk-taking habit?
Understand the risks and responsibilities
The very first step you need to approach any risk-taking habit is to fully understand what would happen if things went wrong. Knowing the potential dangers you are exposing yourself – or others – to, can provide you with the information you need to run a background check. For instance, no experienced driver would buy cars for sale without checking the engine, the tyres, and the vehicle history. This simple research can save you a lot of troubles in the long term. There is no point in buying a vehicle that will drain your finances in repair costs. Similarly, you wouldn’t go bungee jumping without checking your harness; there’s no fun if you aren’t safe. Therefore, the very first step to avoid unnecessary risks is to make sure you have taken all precautions to prevent accidents.
Choose risk-free alternatives
If you’re only after the thrill, you can find alternative activities that are similar enough without carrying the same level of risks. Someone who enjoys the excitement of gambling, for instance, doesn’t have to put their savings and lifestyle at risk with every game. You can keep the sense of anticipation without any of the disadvantages. A lotto player, for instance, could choose to play every week with the knowledge that they might win, but that if they don’t win, they are unlikely to lose money in the process. Similarly, for active gamblers, the Internet has provided a safe solution with the rise of free play bingo games. The excitement is equally present when you match the line of numbers. But the absence of monetary gain makes it an excellent solution for professional gamblers to defeat their addiction.
Stop and think before you act
Your thinking pattern can determine your propensity for risks. The adolescent brain, for instance, isn’t equipped to understand the full potential consequences of their actions. Scientists agree that the tolerance for the unknown that is predominant in teens – aka the fact that they are happy to make decisions without knowing what could go wrong – is the most likely explanation for their reckless behaviour. But what this research highlights is that recklessness comes from misunderstanding or ignorance of the risks. The bottom line is that you need to give yourself the time to evaluate the situation before making a decision.
Calculated risks are sometimes worth taking
Not all risks are for ignoring. The idea that you should run away as fast as your legs can carry you if you perceive even the slightest notion of risk is preposterous. Indeed, it’s by taking risks that you can make big wins, financially, scientifically, or even in your professional career. In other words, develop an informed tolerance to risk can be beneficial, assuming that you know how to calculate the appropriate balance between the likelihood of gains and losses. Calculated risks are risks you are not only aware of but that you’ve researched and measured. It’s a risk that you are willing to take once you’ve assessed it with logic. Investors, entrepreneurs, and lab researchers are famous risk calculators who take an informed approach to every situation.
Why do we take risks?
In a perfect world, nobody would take risks unless they can demonstrate through logic that the risk is almost non-existent. But this isn’t a perfect world. Other factors such as peer pressure and copycat phenomenon are influential in pushing you out of your comfort zone. You might take risks because your friends are doing the same, or because a trusted contact advised you to do so. Risks are inherent to your social integration, especially for individuals with low self-esteem.
Risks are everywhere. Gathering knowledge, calculating the potential gains to be made and finding safe alternatives can act as a shield against dramatic consequences. However, when risks are the result of a high tolerance for the unknown or the desire to be accepted in a close community, the only way out is to transform your mental and emotional needs.