There is a common misconception that taking risks is … well, risky. But the truth is that taking risks is no more risky than playing it safe, or maintaining the status quo. In fact, often by failing to innovate, make changes and move forward in different areas of our lives, we open ourselves up to the possibility of stagnation and falling behind.
It’s all perception. How we see ourselves, our lives, our world, our intimate relationships with the countless circumstances that surround us, determines how we make decisions and choices. And often our perceptions of reality do not match the truth of reality. For example, statistically speaking, you are far less likely to be injured in an airplane than in an automobile, by almost 100 to one. Cars are far more dangerous. Think about it. How many people do you personally know that have been injured or killed in a plane crash? Not in newspaper reports you’ve read, but people you actually know. Now how many people do you know who have been injured or killed in a car accident? Point made. Yet many people feel apprehensive about taking a plane trip, and these same people feel no apprehension whatsoever about a car ride. Their perceptions and fears do not match the reality of the situation. This happens in our lives more than we would care to realize.
Another common misconception that many people have is that life just arbitrarily happens to us without cause or reason. “While some of it we may have control over” they argue, “most of it is just luck.”
Mind Power students of course would find this notion incredulous, yet, amazingly, most people believe it. If this hypothesis is true and everything is just a matter of luck, then choice and decision are a meaningless exercise. Those people who think in terms of good luck and bad luck are obscuring the truth, because they separate events from their causes. When we say that someone has fallen on bad luck, we relieve that person of any responsibility for what has happened. When we say that someone has had good luck, we deny that person credit for the effort and choices they have made that undoubtedly have led to the happy outcome. The question becomes what is luck, and what is cause and effect?
Canadian essayist Stephen Leacock once wrote, “I’m a great believer in luck. Amazingly the harder I work, the more of it I seem to have.” A. J. Foyt, five-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 said it another way, “Luck is when opportunity meets preparation.”
There is very little “luck” in our lives as we understand the term. Synchronicity yes, but luck isolated from cause and effect, no. True, many of the causes behind events are beyond our perceptions and understanding, but the vibrating matrix that we live in is governed by laws of cause and effect.
We are on far more solid ground when we look to ourselves for an understanding of what is happening in our lives, when we look at our choices, our actions, our thoughts, our beliefs, our fears, our desires both past and present. These are causes, and they set in motion effects. Is there no fate or destiny or randomness beyond our own initiating factors, you ask? Of course there is. But even these have deep hidden causes beyond our mortal comprehension.
When we choose to take a risk in some area of our life, we do so anticipating a positive outcome from this decision. We do not know for certain what the outcome will be, but we take a chance weighing all options. Let’s be honest with ourselves, every decision we make has its risks. Even the decision to do nothing has its risks. Often we don’t make changes in our life because we are satisfied with what is happening. Why change, we reason, when things are fine? It’s a valid point. Even people who are unhappy with their life situation often resist change. The rationale being, “Better the devil I know than the devil I don’t know.” I might be unhappy, but maybe a change will make me even more unhappy. At least this unhappiness I can handle.” This resignation comes from a distrust of life. (See the past topic Trusting Life, from the book The Practice of Happiness.
It is not understanding the the Law of Constant Change that keeps people stuck in situations that are crying out for change. The Law of Constant Change states that everything is in the process of becoming something else. Change happens everywhere, with everyone and everything. Nothing is staying the same. Your health, your career, your finances, your friends, your children, your parents, your opportunities, your interests, even your thoughts, fears, desires and beliefs are all changing, morphing into something else. And all things around you are changing too. You cannot be isolated from this phenomenon. New causes are causing new effects.
Renaissance thinker and philosopher Jacob Bernoulli postulated that, “If all throughout eternity could be repeated, we would find that every one of them occurred in response to definite causes, even the causes that seemed most fortuitous.”
But what if we make a mistake by taking a risk, we wonder? What indeed? Nobel Laureate Kenneth Arrow was an air force weather forecaster during the Second World War and shares an incident that illustrates our natural human instinct to try to avoid uncertainty. Some officers had been assigned the task of forecasting the weather a month ahead (this was long before satellite technology). Arrow and his statisticians found that their long-range forecasts were actually no better than predictions pulled out of a hat. The forecasters all agreed on this point and so they finally asked their superiors to be relieved of this duty. The reply came back to them: “The commanding General is well aware that the forecasts are no good. However, he needs them for planning purposes.”
We want certainty in our life, but uncertainty, change and movement are the dynamics of this life experience. You can fight this fact, ignore it, pretend it is something different, but you cannot avoid its effects.
There is a growing volume of research that reveals that most people yield to inconsistencies, myopia, fear and a host of other forms of distortion during the process of decision making, especially while making major decisions that will potentially have a lasting effect on our life. All of us like to think of ourselves as rational beings, even in times of crisis, applying the laws of logic in cool and calculated fashion to the choices that confront us. Yet how realistic are such images? Not very it seems. Furthermore, many of the important decisions we make occur under complex, confusing, even frightening conditions. No wonder we feel stressed.
What can we do? The answer is deceptively simple. Relax and accept that this is life. In real life you are never granted one hundred percent certainty about the outcomes of your decisions. Hopefully you use your logic and your intuition, trusting both equally. You trust that which resonates in your heart as true — you trust what you’re passionate about, for this passion is in you for a reason. You trust synchronicity. You trust life.
In conclusion, I have one simple question to ask you. Are you a risk taker? If your answer is sometimes, that is good. If your answer is always, then perhaps you should learn to sometimes play it more conservatively. If your answer is never, then you need to shake things up by taking some risks.
Taking risks after a thorough examination of most of the possible consequences (you never get to know all), trusting your logic and intuition, is not foolhardy, but rather smart and proactive. Life demands that we take risks. Not all the time. Not in every situation, but where we need to see change, growth and movement. Often it is the most prudent thing we can do.