Life and Risk
Life is a journey which comes with inherent risk. Folks have been thinking a lot about risk in life lately, especially since the horrific disaster of the submersible vessel that imploded near the Titanic site. “Why would people take that risk?”, many people ask. It turns out that there is no reward in life without risk. But people do inherently fear failure, which in the case of something like deep sea exploration, may mean death. Even though this mission met with disastrous results, there will be positive, more reliable safety factors that come out of it, long after the horror and grief of the families and loved ones passes.
It has been said, “failure is not the opposite of success, it is part of success.” In other words, without risk and even failure, we personally, and society in general, would not progress. Still, the fear of a negative outcome can make risk terrifying for people. So what do we do to calculate the risk/reward equation which we will inevitably face in life?
As with many issues I see in my coaching sessions, a cognitive approach can be very helpful in dealing with risk. In other words, one needs to honestly face what it is they fear about the risk they are about to take. Let’s take sky diving as an example. Obviously, folks’ worst fear is that their parachute would not open, and they would plummet to the earth, facing a horrific death. Do the research: what is the incidence of this happening in recreational sky diving? In tandem jumps, the death rate is 1/500,000 jumps. To put his in perspective, the death rate for motor vehicle deaths is 13/100,000 population, making simply riding in your car much more likely to result in death than jumping out of an airplane. However, there is an irrational component to sky driving for fun, and I, for one, would never do it, no matter what the statistics say! How about you? Also, knowing how dangerous motor vehicle travel is, we get in our cars multiple times per day, traveling hundreds of miles. So logic does not always rule our decisions concerning risk.
When you are facing a decision that has risks associated with it - more common choices like whether to embark on a new career path, buy a house, or begin a new relationship, cognitively weigh out the likelihood of negative outcomes. This can be helpful, but not always foolproof. There will always be that irrational possibly terrifying aspect. The fear of a negative outcome may simply be too powerful to overcome, no matter how rational one approaches the decision.
The key is to be mindful. Look at the facts. understand the origins of your fears in making a risky decision. Can they be overcome? Will you never be confident in your decision? Is the risk worth the possible reward?
If you need help with these decisions, let us know, we can help! In the meantime, understand there is nothing positive in life without some degree of risk. So, go out and live!
Dr. John Monaco