Playing It Safe Or Taking Risks?


Are you the kind of person who minimizes change, only takes calculated risks with high degrees of success? If this is a fair description of you, it logically follows then that you are going to have to be happy with the  conservative choices you’ve made when you look back and take stock of your life.

On the other hand, if you live a low-risk, conservative life at the present but plan on taking greater chances later in life, you’re actually taking a great risk just by putting off taking those higher gambles. The reason of course is that the length of time each of us has is the great unknown. Make sure you’re okay with putting off change and taking risks so you don’t later regret it.

Now when it comes to employment, what does taking risks mean? Certainly it applies to the older adult who opts to return to school at some point to improve their education, get their high school diploma, or gain the necessary qualifications for a job they want but haven’t done before. Taking on added debt while improving your education is a risk; you add the debt of school and simultaneously lose the income you could have had if you were working instead.

You might also be said to be taking a chance if you decide at some point to give up your job and start-up a business. There will be start-up costs and a lot of energy needed to establish yourself in a competitive market – just to survive beyond the first year. Once you launch that new business, you need to be entirely invested in its success, and that could mean working during the day there and returning home at night continuing to work from home. That certainly puts financial security at risk, not to mention the impact on your family if you are spending time on your business you previously spent with them.

Even when you move from one job to another, there is some inherent risk in leaving what you know for what you imagine will be better. The new job might not turn out to be exactly as advertised in the interview and sometimes people regret the moves they’ve made. Sometimes the grass is greener and sometimes once you get there you realize it’s just the thriving weeds!

Risk-takers may be divided into those who are reckless and those who make their moves only after having done some homework to improve the likelihood of being happy with the results of their choice. I know of a fellow for example who was so psychologically frustrated he just quit his job one day and two days later had relocated a few hundred kilometers away with no job, no home; just got off the bus and started from scratch. That kind of risk-taking behaviour isn’t for many people. In his case it didn’t work out. He was back in two month’s time saying things were no better there than here.

Now compare that to a friend I know in his late 20’s. This fellow had a good paying  engineering job, lived at home with his parents, but gave up the job security as he felt he’d better take a risk now before he lacked the courage to try in the future. He drove 2000 kilometers and took a job on a research ship, where he is using his education in the Canadian Arctic. That’s a huge risk, but he did his research and landed the job in advance, making the change for what he hopes is the better. So far so good.

Playing it safe isn’t a bad thing or a good thing; it’s just a choice. It’s important to realize what kind of person you are and your values in order that you don’t impose those values on others. If you are a risk-taker by nature, it is no more appropriate for you to judge those who are not, anymore than the conservative, safe types should expect you to avoid risk. What’s right for me might be the wrong choice for you and vice versa.

Of course it complicates things somewhat when you have other people to factor into your values and choices. Your spouse might be a risk-taker, an adventure seeker, who wants to step out of his or her comfort zone and reach for the stars. You might have once felt that way yourself but are now making less of those choices. If by chance it’s you who wants to move to the other side of the globe and immerse yourself in some other culture full-time, you might feel constrained if your partner wants to remain 4 blocks away from their parents. Something and someone, has to give.

If you were expecting some advice one way or the other, sorry to disappoint. Some people believe that even planning a risky move removes the very element of risk! Yes deciding to play things safe or take risks, (calculated and researched or not) is an individual choice. Even when things don’t work out, the choice itself to risk or play things safe might still be the right choice at the time.

Are you playing things safe with respect to your career choices? I would love to hear stories from people – those who took chances and those who played it safe. Has it worked out? Do you have regrets one way or the other? Are you happy?

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