Why do we avoid taking risks?

Most people think that the will to survive is the strongest instinct in human beings, but it isn’t. The strongest instinct is to keep things familiar.
-Virginia Satir, Family Therapist

We sometimes hear incidents like when a person dies his/her partner commits suicide. It’s because the need to keep things familiar is more than the need to live life itself. Richard Bandler, the co-founder of NLP, said that we make something familiar and even when it doesn’t function anymore we stick with it. That’s when we start to make our lives dysfunctional. People persist in extremely uncomfortable situations as they are familiar to them. They are unaware that they have choices (from the book: Richard Bandler’s Guide to Trance-formation).

We all know at least one person (if it’s not us we are talking about) who lives an absolutely mundane life. This person never does anything out of the ordinary, sticks to the same schedule everyday, visits the same supermarket, buys exactly the same brands in the same quantity every time and doesnt stop to make small talk with anyone. Although the person might just seem standoffish on the surface, underlying is the low risk appetite that’s hiding. What would happen if he/she spoke to someone and got hurt in the process?

Living life itself is risky
-Carl Rogers, psychiatrist

We risk ourselves all the time. When we enter a relationship we risk going through hurt and pain, when we join a job we risk our reputation, when we take up an exam we risk failure. If we can’t deal with the fear of failure our subconscious mind will avoid opportunities altogether. This kind of life might be too dull, uneventful and could prevent a person from growing to his full potential.

If I never initiate a conversation with people who hurt me in the past, if I never send out a second invitation, if I never attempt an interview in which I previously got rejected, I have turned myself down before anybody else gets a chance to do it. The fear cripples me. It ensures that nothing new or exciting ever happens to me.

If you keep doing what you have been doing, you will keep getting what you have been getting. To risk is to grow.

When you try something new, there is this tingling feeling of unfamiliarity. “What will happen if I do this? How is life going to be different? Will it be better or worse than now?” Well, you will never find out until you take your chances. You never know what is waiting for you at the other end.

People who never risk are known to have regretful thoughts are they look back at their lives. They think of all the things that they could have done and the kind of life they could have lived, if only they had taken their chances. In retrospect, our lives could have played out quite differently.

To risk and to fail, is better than to never have risked at all.

Procrastination also has a flavour of avoiding risks. A person’s neurology protects him by putting things off because if those things are done they will cause pain and suffering. To avoid the pain that will come out of the situation the act is postponed, sometimes indefinitely. The question here is, “Are we willing to risk doing whatever it is that we are putting off?”

Having said that, I would also like to add that risks need to be taken calculatively. I cant walk a tightrope strung 100 feet above the ground without so much as a safety net. I can’t jump off a skyscraper with a blazing parachute for the fun of it. Anything that’s too adventurous or dangerous might not be worth it. So, how much of what are we willing to risk? If it has a 10% chance of improving our lives, can we give it a shot?