“Climb out of the plane on to the wing” were probably the scariest words I had ever heard. I was 17 years old and my sky diving instructor was giving me directions on my first jump. It was at that moment I thought, “I can’t do this, what if I die, why am I paying to do this?” But a mere 30 seconds later I was screaming with delight and enjoying the most exhilarating feeling as I fell through the sky.

We often associate risk with extreme sports or maybe an investment that is considered high risk. But the truth is we are constantly assessing risk in everyday life and making decisions because of how we perceive this risk. Yesterday I was travelling in Switzerland with a friend who is visiting from Australia. We were in a shop, and he picked up a bottle of Evian water, turned to me and asked, “is this safe for me to drink?”. I thought he was joking, but no, he was asking a genuine question. I informed him that it hadn’t been scooped out of a muddy puddle in a third world country and that he would be just fine.

I spend a lot of time working with the Everything DiSC tools which profile people’s styles and the truth is some of us are more prone to being risk averse than others. Some people thrive on risk while others avoid it at all cost. I can’t think of any greater example of this than the polarising views during the Covid pandemic. It felt like half the population were opposing strict covid measures while the other half were saying those same restrictions didn’t go far enough.

So how do we find a healthy balance? Here are two questions you should ask yourself when deciding if something is worth the risk:

Am I risk prone or risk averse?

If we understand our personality and how likely we are to take on risk this can help enormously when making decisions. I love taking risks, but I understand that I can be too casual sometimes, so I often run things past my wife who is a good balance to me. If you recognise that you’re naturally risk averse, then make sure to take that into account and make a conscious decision to be a little more relaxed.

Is the risk worth the reward?

There are times when the pain of missing out on the reward is greater than the potential pain of the risk. Don’t let fear of the 5% stop you or someone else from enjoying the 95%. As a parent, I’m aware that I can’t shield my children from all risk as much as I’d like to. If I want them to experience the joys of life, I understand they will also be exposed to some of the risks of life.  

In our work at Meaningful Care Matters, the risk assessments we use put a strong focus on starting from the potential emotional and social benefits of a proposed activity rather than going straight to the dangers. This helps ensure that when decisions are made, these benefits are not lost, and we do all we can to minimise the risks, rather than rule out the activity all together.  Ultimately it is a balancing act, and people involved in those decisions will approach it from their particular perspective on risk.

My sky diving experience has bought me years of joy as I look back on that experience. I try and remember that if I had let fear stop me from stepping out on to the wing of that plane, I would never have felt the adrenaline rush of falling through the sky.

Consultant Trainer
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