Part 1: Introduction to risk

Take risks: if you win, you will be happy; if you lose, you will be wise.”


What is risk?

When you think about it, you choose to take part in activities that involve risk every day. For example, you might take the train to work.  There might be a risk that something will happen and the train runs late; there is also the possibility you will get to work faster and earlier compared with driving your car if the train is running on time. 

All activities that involve risk bring with them the chance of something happening. This means that at the heart of the idea of risk is uncertainty – we are not entirely sure what will happen.

Stop for a moment and imagine what your life would be like if you did not take the opportunity to try new things, e.g. learning to walk, or drive a car.  If you go through life without participating in risky activities, it is very likely that you will reduce your opportunities for a good life, for growth and development and achieving the things that are important to you.

Thinking ahead about the ways in which you approach an activity involving risk means that you can participate in risky activities while reducing outcomes you might not want. So, for example, if you were going to invest in the stock market, you could minimize your risk in several ways. These include: investing only a small amount of your savings, spreading your investments over many different shares or seeking advice from an expert before you proceed.

How ‘risky’ we think something is can change over time – it can become less of a risk with practice and reflection. For example, when beginning to learn how to drive a car, your risk of an accident might be greater than after having had years of driving experience. With practice, you can reduce the risk of an accident because you become able to adapt to a situation, like driving in wet conditions.

Types of outcomes from taking risk

Taking a risk is about “doing” something that brings with it an unknown outcome. When we take a risk, we can experience outcomes that are either positive or negative.  These positive and negative outcomes can belong to different categories, depending upon the activity you are doing.

These outcome categories include:

  • Psychosocial Well-Being: this relates to a person’s emotional, psychological, mental and social health or well-being. When carers think about outcomes that happen from taking risks, they often do not think about psychosocial outcomes for the people they support. This could be because it is not something that can be easily seen.

If, for example, you attended went to a musical / theatre show, a positive psychosocial outcome would be that you made new friends. A negative psychosocial outcome would be that people stared at you, or you felt ignored by others at the event.

  • Physical Health and Safety: this relates to injury to the body. If you wanted to join a gym, positive outcomes could include you becoming fitter or having more endurance. A negative outcome could be a pulled muscle.
  • Financial: this relates to the use of money. If you were wanting to take out a loan to buy a house, a positive outcome would be that you could make a profit if you sell the property at a time when property prices rise. A negative outcome would happen if you were not able to keep up with the home loan repayments.

A summary of outcomes from risk is provided in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1. Outcomes from risk

Benefits come from taking risks

It is important to recognise that there are benefits to be gained from engaging in activities involving risk. Often, it is easy to think of risk as something dangerous, but this is not always the case.

Benefits of taking risks can include:

  • Learning new skills
  • New experiences
  • Build confidence.
  • Meet new people
  • Increase interest, engagement and enthusiasm
  • Motivation to try new things
  • A sense of accomplishment

When people choose to avoid risk, or are risk averse, it is usually out of fear of something going wrong. However, by doing this, positive experiences may also be lost and opportunities to grow and develop limited. It is worthwhile remembering that sometimes the biggest risk comes from not taking a risk at all.

Fear of falling (that is excessive), is an example of how, needless restriction in participation in physical and social activities, may in fact increase the risk of falls due to physical de-conditioning, as well as being harmful in terms of poor quality of life, social isolation, depression and psychological harm.  


What influences whether someone takes a risk?

In spite of the potential for positive outcomes, many factors can determine whether someone decides to follow through in taking a risk or not. These influences can be internal (by the person themselves) or external (by others).

Things that influence whether someone takes a risk includes:

  • Core Values – Our core values drive our behaviour. We can value honesty, integrity, learning and feeling connected to others, just to name a few. We act in ways that express our core values.  For example: “I value learning from new experiences and taking this risk will help me to learn and grow.”
  • Prior experience – This means having the opportunity to undertake risk, learn from it and try again.   For example: “I have taken this risk before and I can do it again. I know that I am better able to deal with the risk this time around.”
  • Knowledge – Having information about the amount and type of risk involved will determine whether you will undertake the risk.  For example: “Do I have enough of an understanding about what I am about to participate in for me to want to take this risk?”
  • Context or environment – This includes the influence your family, friends or workplace have on your decision to take a risk. It also includes other things like cost, physical space, catering, weather.  For example: “Am I supported to take this risk by the people around me?” and/or “Will the room be large enough?”


Download, print and complete the activity sheets below.


Scroll to Top