In A Better You

Taking the Right Risks


Risks are a part of life. The trick is to know which ones are worth taking and which ones aren’t.

Muhammad Ali said, “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing.” In fact, if you look at people who have been very successful in their life, there’s one thing they all have in common. They chose to take calculated risks. Risk taking is often viewed negatively. Your preteen and teen years can be especially difficult. You may feel pulled in two different directions. Your parents will likely want you to play it safe, and your friends may encourage you to take risks that you probably shouldn’t. Before we get into how to decide whether a risk is worth taking, let’s look at some possible benefits of taking risks.

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Benefits of Risk

Taking a risk when everyone else is playing it safe can help you stand out among the crowd. It shows confidence, because there is a chance that you could fail. Stepping out and taking a risk shows you are confident enough to handle the positive or negative outcome of your risk taking. You will also learn things from taking risks that you will never learn otherwise. Whatever your dreams may be, you will never achieve them by playing it safe. Sometimes you have to take a chance to get what you want. Taking risks also helps you learn to accept failure. The very nature of risk means that you won’t always succeed when you take one. Failure is its own learning opportunity, however.

Risk vs. Reward

Clearly all risks aren’t worth taking. Speeding down a highway is one example of a risk that you could do without. There is no benefit to it other than the immediate thrill of doing so. That’s not a very big reward. The risk, on the other hand, is very great. You could get pulled over and get into trouble, or even get into an accident and die. When you consider the possible risk, the reward doesn’t seem worth it. Not all risks are quite as clear cut, however. Let’s say someone offers you the answers to the upcoming math test, and that you struggle in this subject. The reward for cheating on the test would be a good grade. This is a significant reward, especially if it would help pull your grade up. However, the risks are higher than the possible reward. Getting caught could mean failing the class, being expelled, and letting down your teacher and parents.

Don’t Gamble More Than You Can Afford to Lose

Making a decision about which risks to take involves more factors than just risk vs. reward. A good rule to keep in mind is to never gamble more than you can afford to lose. Risk is a form of taking a gamble, but let’s put it into a more tangible form for a moment. If you had $10 and had to feed yourself, would you spend that $10 on a chance at a week’s worth of food, or spend it on a day’s worth that you can count on? You will probably choose the sure thing, because you can’t afford to lose your last $10 and wind up empty handed. Now imagine that you have $1,000. You wouldn’t think twice about risking $10.

The lesson here is to never risk more than you can afford to lose. This refers to many things that are intangible like your future opportunities, health, and trust of those close to you. Everyone’s definition of what they can afford to lose will be different. This leads different people to take different risks. However, you should know ahead of time what you aren’t willing to lose, because many times we find ourselves faced with decisions that have to be made very quickly. Take the cheating on the math test example. You aren’t likely to be given a week to think about it. You will probably be asked if you would like the answers right before the test. If you have decided ahead of time that your parents trust is something you can’t afford to lose, the decision becomes much easier.

Will I Have Another Opportunity

When evaluating whether or not you should take a risk, you should also consider whether or not the opportunity will come around again. Some offers are once in a lifetime opportunities. Maybe you get accepted to a college far from home. Going far away from your family to a place where you don’t know anyone is risky, but the opportunity probably won’t present itself again.

What Do You Risk by Not Taking a Risk

In the example of going away to college, you could be risking many things by not taking the risk of attending college away from home. Perhaps a better education than you would receive at your local college which would put you getting the best job when you get out of school at jeopardy. A more everyday example is talking to or asking out someone that you would like to date or become friends with. If you do, you risk being rejected. If you don’t you will miss the chance to have a friendship or a relationship with this person.

Short Term vs. Long Term

Sometimes we get caught up in the short term, when we should be considering long term consequences. In the example of asking someone out, you are risking short term rejection for a chance at a long term relationship. It works the other way as well. What if you are at the mall with a friend, and they ask you to shoplift? You may feel the short term benefit of having an item you couldn’t afford or appearing cool in front of your peers. However, you also risk the long term consequence of having a criminal record.

Which Choice Would You Regret More

Another thing to consider is which choice you would most regret. Taking the risk and having negative consequences or not taking the risk at all. Don’t look at this in the short term. Consider how you would feel about all of the possible outcomes a year from now. Sometimes the pain of regret is greater than the pain of taking a risk.The fact is that we take risk every day of our lives.

From the moment we step out of bed, there is risk. You could fall and break your leg in your own home, but to stay on bed would mean missing out on all the wonderful things life has to offer. Life is all about deciding which risks are worth taking and which ones aren’t.

What if you see someone being bullied at school? Taking a stand and saying something or getting a teacher could result in you being picked on, but how will you feel if you say nothing? Will it bother you that you didn’t say anything? Would you feel proud if you did, regardless of the consequences? Would you feel it was worth it? This is the essence of taking the right risks.

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