Taking Risks

5 Reasons People Are Afraid To Take Risks


Taking risks

Most aspects of life hinge on our ability to take calculated risks. The growth and prosperity of entire countries, governments, and even civilizations depend on it.

Universities encourage students to devise innovative ways to solve problems and think outside the box. They’re taught that those who take risks are the ones who ultimately reap the highest of rewards.

However, our minds typically associate risks with the fear of failure and uncertainty. We get tired of being judged and criticized, which affects our ego and deflates our self-esteem.

If this is the case, then why are people still taking risks?


For several reasons, but the most important is that taking risks is a positive learning experience. Think of it like this: if you take a risk and fail, you’ll learn something. And if you don’t fail, you’ll have achieved what you set out to do.

Yet, it becomes much more challenging to put these ideas into action because we tend to fear the unknown that comes with risk-taking.

A few years ago I wrote a poem about taking risks.  I wrote it for a young man who was in a group that I was facilitating, but I  have found over the years that this poems speaks to me over and over.  I shared this poem recently on Medium.

In this post, I look at five reasons why people fear taking risks that they should be taking to help them grow and prosper:

1.    Fear

Fear is the top reason why we dislike taking risks. We don’t know what will happen when we step out of our comfort zone, so it’s easier to just stay in place.

So what about those people who still manage to do it with such skill? Are they more fearless and courageous than everyone else?

Unlikely. They do, however, have purpose.

In other words, those who take risks are just as afraid and anxious as everyone else. The difference is that they have the skill set that allows them to rise above their fears. They take a leap of faith and hope that everything will work out in the end.

2.    Uncertainty

Why does the idea of change often evoke troubling images and difficult times?

Because we don’t like it when we’re not in control. And with change, we don’t know what’s coming or how we should respond.

However, life as a whole is a series of risks that we take on a regular basis. They’re essential to living a happy, successful life and achieving your short- and long-term goals.  Think back to when you learned to walk – you didn’t know if you would fall as you tried to cross the room, but you did it anyway and picked yourself up when you fell.  The pattern is the same.   Set some goals and take some steps towards them.  If you fall, pick yourself up and try again.

3.    Judgment

Even though taking risks comes with many advantages, it also has a few downsides. One is that you could be exposed to rejection and harsh criticism.  It can happen, but not as often as you think.

So, rather than risk losing confidence in our decision-making ability. As a result, it can cause us to have a poor self-image and we feel that we could even lose the respect of our peers.  Often this fear is only in our minds as others are more concerned about themselves than they are about us.

The most effective way to counterbalance this is to start small. This will allow you to gradually build your confidence and learn new skills at your own pace. Also, taking small risks can help reduce your anxiety and fear of rejection.

4.    Regret

Sometimes it feels that taking risks comes at a too-steep price. If we’re not equipped with the right tools to deal with these potential outcomes, we feel anxious and fearful. A common example of this is regret.

We know all too well how remorse, shame, and guilt feel like. That’s why we try to stay away from these intense feelings as much as we can. So, rather than make a decision that we later regret, we choose to do nothing instead.

Unfortunately, doing nothing reduces the chance of achieving great things and reaching high levels of success, and increases our chances of feeling regret for what we didn’t do.  Take the time to learn what you need to learn to move forward.  Look towards those who have accomplished what you want to achieve.  Study them.  Learn from them.  Decide what you want to accomplish and take the steps necessary to reach your goal.

5.    Failure

Unfortunately, often our teaching and upbringing go against the idea that failure can be a ‘blessing in disguise,’ even thought it makes us stronger, more resilient, and less fearful.

Growing up, we may have been taught to believe that we need to make as few mistakes as possible. We’re told that this will help us get good grades, which will set us on the path to a successful and lucrative career. Don’t buy into this myth.

This system is counterintuitive to living a fulfilling, well-balanced lifestyle. After all, a huge part of this fulfillment and balance is achieved after experiencing one or two failures. And since failure is always a possibility when it comes to taking risks, then we should learn to see it as a good thing rather than a deterrent.

If you aren’t failing, then you aren’t trying.   And if you aren’t failing often, you are probably not moving forward.  Take a look at some of the famous people who have reached the top.   They failed many times on the way up.  Some names you might recognize, Walt Disney, Colonel Sanders.

So, are you ready to take on a few risks?


P.S.  You can pick up a copy of my poem on a bookmark here. bookmarks Risk

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