Risk Tolerant or Risk Averse?

risk-takingEach morning, my iPhone sends me several prompting questions to ponder or about which to journal.  There are some really good ones, but today’s really made me think.  The question had to do with risk in one’s life, and one’s willingness to act on a dare.

How would you describe yourself, a risk seeker, risk tolerant, or risk averse?  How would others describe you?  And why is that important?

Self-awareness.  This one hyphenated word can often predict an individual’s success or lack thereof at any endeavor.  After all, if we don’t understand ourselves in a somewhat objective and accurate way, if we see ourselves differently from the ways others perceive and observe us, we’re in a world of hurt.

So, how would I describe myself, and how well aligned would that description be to that others might provide?  Well, many of you know me, so I encourage you to share your thoughts about my risk tolerance.  Perhaps my own perceptions are not entirely accurate, and as I preach the importance of self-awareness, perhaps I need to practice what I preach.

But first, let me describe me own tendencies, as I see them……

I’m not only risk tolerant, I’d say, but some might say risk seeking.  Now, I’d argue the latter might be taking things a bit far, but I recognize that some of my decisions and actions may appear foolhardy or borderline risky to others.  I’d suggest that this may be more due to the comparative distance between my own comfort with risk and others’ tolerance.  Nevertheless, I’d describe myself as possessing a fairly high comfort level with risk, personally and professionally.

I haven’t always been that way.  Both in my personal life and in my career, I’d say that I started out rather conservatively, opting for relative security and aiming to stay within a more traditional comfort zone.  Along my professional pathway, while I did opt for jobs with higher risks for physical discomfort or danger at times, there was an underlying sense of “safety” in those choices.  Even as an infantry scout or flying onboard navy reconnaissance planes off North Korea and Russia, I’d taken a fairly safe path in terms of overall career opportunity, employment security, and promotional opportunity.  All were well-defined and almost a given.  Work hard, and you’d be rewarded.  Skate by with less than full effort, and you’d still, well, easily skate by.

Later, having transitioned from boots to a briefcase, I chose not the more rewarding path of entrepreneurship for the anonymity and safety of corporate giants.  Again, while excelling required real effort, failure also required real effort!  So, yes, I took the safe and risk averse pathways for years.

risk-and-reward-787129And on the personal front, much of the same could be said.  For years, I found myself “settling” for a lifestyle and for relationships that were merely comfortable, but neither particularly growth-inspiring nor correspondingly rewarding on an emotional or spiritual level.

The transition for me began nearly a decade ago, though, that gradual shifting of priorities and growth in my desire to take on both the “discomfort” and reward that often accompanies greater risk.  Freed from an unfulfilling marriage and inspired by the adoption of a newfound hobby in skydiving, my reinvention was borne.

And quite honestly, in the past several years, that transformation has become full, not complete, but, yes, full.  I shed the bonds of indentured servitude to corporate masters, grasping instead at the promise of the consulting and teaching world.  And I did so without neither laid out ahead of me, when I left the corporate world.  I redefined for myself my own needs as they pertain to both my career direction and my personal life, refusing to settle for less than what is ideal for me, even at the expense of “comfort” and “security.”  In this new world, hard work still leads to success (financially, emotionally, and spiritually), but the level of success far exceeds what was possible in less risky “worlds.” This is my world, and I love it.

felix-baumgartner-lgSo, yes, while I’m not sure I’d say I’m a risk-seeker, I’m at the very least comfortably risk tolerant, and I understand the “high-risk, high-reward” world in which I now reside.  Are there others with greater risk tolerance?  Of course….while I still skydiving with as much passion and enthusiasm as I ever did, Felix Baumgartner need not fear me as a challenger to his space skydive.  That’s a level of risk I’ll not likely embrace.  Thankfully, I think we’d all agree that a jump from more than even three miles up would be taking it a bit far, even for me!

I’m at least THAT self-aware…..

4 thoughts on “Risk Tolerant or Risk Averse?

    1. Several reasons….1) the willingness or unwillingness of an individual or organization to move (or operate) outside their comfort zones can have a tremendous affect on their ability to change and thrive in an ever evolving world, so it’s a topic area that is of great importance, 2) my own evolution from risk aversion to risk acceptance has defined my success personally and professionally over the past several years. So, for those reasons, particularly as I reflect at year’s end on all the changes I’ve experienced in this past year alone, the question was immediately intriguing.

  1. It is apparent from your article that self-awareness has been a key element towards risk acceptance. In fact, as you stated, “I redefined for myself my own needs as they pertain to both my career direction and my personal life, refusing to settle for less than what is ideal for me, even at the expense of ‘comfort’ and ‘security’.” Did you have a vision in mind or a goal that you aim for as you continue on the path of risk aversion? How did you enable yourself towards the results of risk acceptance for this year ending?

    1. I’ve always centered my life around specific personal and professional goals, but those goals remained in what I refer to as “risk averse” for years. Some of that may have been an inherited tendency, I think. But as the years progressed, I became more disenchanted by the rewards of taking an overly conservative approach toward my career. On top of this, I think a number of contributing factors enable this transformation…among them a growing dissatisfaction with the corporate career model, achievement on the educational front, dissolution of a marriage that inhibited my ability to take on risk, and simply encouragement from key individuals in my personal and professional lives.

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