Phone: 314-567-3040

Risk Taking





Think back for a moment. What is the biggest risk you ever took? Okay, now ask yourself, what risk do you regret not taking? The answers to these questions will likely summarize your greatest joy and excitement and your biggest regret. While working at directing your own personal growth journey, keep them in mind, for your own experience will serve as a point of reference in the course of proactively directing your personal growth journey.

WHAT IS RISK? The dictionary defines the word risk as, "exposure to the chance of injury or loss: a hazardous or dangerous chance." Viewed from a broader and more comprehensive perspective, there are many kinds of risks, some are unavoidable.  Just living through a typical day could be considered risky. For the purpose of this website, the focus will be on one particular type of deliberate risk, the kind that shapes you as a person and gives direction to your life. Each time you take risks of this sort, you are, in effect, creating yourself. You are saying, "That is what I choose, this is who I am.”  You take this kind of risk when you commit yourself to another person, invest time and money in developing a talent, or reveal your true feelings to another person, especially the first time.  Such choices are almost always felt to be risky, because they are accompanied by three feelings: UNCERTAINTY (you cannot know the outcome in advance), ANXIETY (you fear the unknown), and GUILT (you must leave behind what you have known and been).

There are three kinds of healthy, deliberate risks that lead to the expansion of your personal growth: Self-improvement risks, Commitment-risks and Self-disclosure risks. All three involve a conscious, deliberate choice to put yourself on the line knowing that there are no guarantees. There are crucial differences between these three types of risks. Note the following:

You take self-improvement risks in hope to enrich your life in some way. You may take a risk to get ahead, to learn something new, to emerge from the sidelines and into the spotlight. These are the risks that enable you to bridge the gap between what you are and what you can be, to make dreams become reality. Often, not taking such risks can spawn bitter regrets. Such risks may require the sacrifice of changing your routine or giving up what is familiar. You sacrifice predictability and familiarity for the possibility of growth. Think about those times you took self-improvement risks and those times you regret not taking self-improvement risks.

You define yourself by the commitments you make. If you avoid making commitments, you all but guarantee that your personal growth will be stunted. There are two types of commitment risks. With one type, you commit yourself to a person or a relationship.  These are the risks you take when you fall in love, get married or make a friend. With the other type, you commit yourself to a value, whether it is expressed in a cause, a career, or even a set of criteria you apply before investing in common stock i.e. investment plan. Think about what you have learned and gained from making a commitment. Think about the commitment you regret not making. Also, think about those times your commitment risks resulted in some kind of disappointment.

When you open up to others and reveal whom you really are, how you feel, and what you want or need, you are taking the risk of self-disclosure. You take these risks when you confront others with whom you are angry with or when you share your feelings of love with the potential of rejection. You risk self-disclosure when you admit, you do not understand, or that you failed to perform a certain task. To admit your wrong, risks self-disclosure. You cannot be assertive without taking risks of self-disclosure. Think about ways that you have disclosed yourself and what you have gained and what you have lost?

One of the paradoxes of life is that genuine security requires risk-taking. To understand why, you need to recognize the differences between two kinds of security: STATIC and DYNAMIC. (A) Static security implies absence of change. People who crave static security are likely to sit on the sideline of life and not be proactively involved in their personal growth journey. (B) Dynamic security implies openness, fluidity and personal growth. It is always in the making. It is never quite achieved because it is always unfolding. Viewed this way, dynamic security is like life itself, always evolving, always changing, the personal growth journey continues.

One telltale sign that you are avoiding healthy risks is you probably feel frustrated, unhappy and resentful of the people and circumstances that seem to hold you back.  You may sense that your potential is unrealized; your life may seem flat and uninteresting. You may settle for less and then justify your decision.   Upon reviewing your history, give some examples of some healthy risks you should have, but did not take.

Take some time to familiarize yourself with what are called empty or non-productive risks. Empty risks are almost always the product of boredom, restlessness, a lack of fulfillment, or a need to prove yourself.  Such risks are often taken for thrills and the excitement is the payoff. They must be repeated and outdone. Empty risks are almost symbolic gestures that create the illusion of movement, change, and growth, but they are without substance.

It can be helpful to make a list of the self-improvement risks, commitment risks, self-disclosure risks you have taken throughout your life. This will help you to begin to understand how various risk taking behaviors have impacted your personal growth journey. In order to become more self-directed in your personal growth journey, I strongly recommend you become more proactive in taking healthy risks. After reviewing the aforementioned information, you may be considering a thorough evaluation to determine if psychotherapy, personal growth counseling and/or marriage counseling can help. I recommend you first review the website link, "When to consider psychotherapy?" also review any other link you may think applies to your circumstances.

My name is Oliver (Mike) Siems, MSW, LCSW, ACSW.
My company, Personal Growth, LLC, has been providing counseling services since 1975.

Personal Growth, LLC is located at:
443 N. New Ballas Rd., Ste. 201
St. Louis, MO 63141
314 567-3040