What we need to realize about risk

dreamkiller risk trust Mar 08, 2022
waving at a Mardi Gras parade float

Last week, I drove to Louisiana to watch a Mardi Gras parade.  I visited with family and returned with a King Cake and loads of beads.  To me, a solo trip was a risk worth taking.  A full days drive each way was my version of a road warrior’s adventure.  It was so much fun!

After I returned, one of my friends shared that she would never take the risk of driving 500+ miles alone. You could see the objections in her eyes.

It’s too dangerous for a woman to travel alone! You could get accosted! What if your car broke down? Even worse, you might wreck your car and end up in the hospital in who knows where!!  Now what?

Perceived risk

We stop ourselves from engaging in adventure because the perceived risk is too daunting. It’s tricky, though, because perceived risk will always have elements of truth.  Those things could happen. 

Perceived risk draws attention to a world of possible tragedies, but the probability of them happening in reality is low. 

Very low. 

Minuscule, actually.

The perception of risk is far higher than the probability of disaster. Yet, we allow that perceived risk to block our enjoyment of life.

Real risk

Our brains are wired for worst-case scenarios because those survival techniques were effective against real risk. It created our negativity bias. The humans who were alert are the ones who were prepared, and they are the ones who survived. That gene pool produced us.

Real risk has a much higher probability and a higher cost. 

For example, quitting a job with no plan contains real risk.  In order to survive, we would probably end up grabbing the first job that comes along.  The probability that it is a terrible fit for our skills and values is high.  The real risk of jumping ship increases the probability of becoming stuck doing work we don’t love… again.

Real risk deserves careful thought and preventative planning because it carries real consequences.

But there’s another kind of risk we don’t talk about: irrational risk.

(Please note: I don’t mean OCD.  I once dated a man who could not leave his home without staring at the stove to be sure the burners were off.  He couldn’t touch the stove, or he’d have to start over.  It was impossible to leave until the proper amount of staring had occurred. That’s OCD, it’s irrational and an entirely different topic.)

Irrational risk

Irrational risk threatens your ego only.  The fear of failure, the fear of imperfection, the fear of missing out are all risks that are often irrational.  There are no elements of truth there, as in perceived risk, and there are no real consequences beyond a bruised ego.

Living in the cave, rejection from the tribe had life-threatening consequences and those automatic responses are still in our gene pool. Facing rejection carries a high cost in our minds, but in reality, recovery is much easier in today’s world. 

Many creative people grapple with this fear, myself included.  Sharing our creative work is like exposing our soul.  Rejection is much more than an opinion about our work, it becomes a judgment about who we are. 

What we need to realize

Every perceived or irrational risk is a Dreamkiller.  Dreamkillers divert our attention from our true Dream.  They delude us with false outcomes.  They cause us to avoid actions that will move us forward. 

When you consider sharing your creative work, I invite you to consider the real risk.  What are the probabilities that you’ll suffer a tangible consequence? 

If you fail at the seemingly terrifying action you take today, will you actually DIE? 

How long will you let Dreamkillers slow you down?

How to move past the risk

Start small.  Take one baby step. Keep the action so small that the Dreamkillers don’t notice.  Know that when advancing with baby steps, if there is a failure or a setback, it won’t be huge.

Embrace courage and take another small step.  That step will be easier.

The reality is Dreamkillers are bullies. Face them down and they disappear in a puff of smoke.

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