As we age, we are gradually and (sometimes suddenly) forced to give up our illusion that life is predictable and we have a large measure of control over our destiny. Of course, some of us lose this sense of predictability early in life due to a serious childhood illness, the death of a parent or a debilitating personal injury. Still, most people make it through childhood having experienced relatively small losses. As we get older, we are more likely to experience the riskiness of life. We may experience the illness or death of a loved one, one (or more) failed marriages, unexpected financial setbacks and personal health crises to name just a few such events.
Risk is a built-in part of life. There is no life without risk and our lives are often less in our control than we would like to believe. Some people are risk-takers by temperament and personality, others are very risk-averse and most of us are somewhere in the middle. Some risks are chosen but many are not; they are just a part of the package deal called “life”. We don’t choose our genes, our families, the geographic location or era into which we are born or our genetic health risks. However, we do choose to risk our hearts in relationships, our bodies in athletic activities and our minds by engaging in learning experiences. We risk our comfort, sense of safety, and preconceptions about the world through travel, education and relating to people who are different from us.
We choose to take risks because we believe that the rewards that come from taking these risks are rich enough to make the risks worth taking. Some people feel that the danger of risk isn’t worth it. They prefer the predictability of the safe and familiar, even if it is miserable and limiting. We take risks in order to grow and frequently because we want to move beyond the limitations of our existing life circumstances. It is valuable to look at our own risk-taking tendencies from time to time and decide whether there is anything about our personal risk/reward equation that we want to change. A few questions to consider:
1) Do you see yourself as a risk-taker, risk-averse, or somewhere in the middle?
2) What kinds of risks have you been willing to take in the past? What risks are you no longer willing to take? What risks are you willing to take now?
3) What is your experience of risk in life? Does life seem very risky to you or fairly safe and predictable? What life events have shaped your attitudes about risk?
4) What is the biggest risk you have ever taken and are you glad you took it?
5) What risks would you like to take that you have not taken? Are there risks you wish you had taken earlier in your life? Risks that you would like to take now?
6) Share one experience you had with a risk you took that turned out well or talk about a way life presented you with a risk you didn’t expect. How did you respond to it?
7) What makes a risk worth taking?