top of page

Avoiding risk can be risky

Risk is everywhere

Risk is everywhere. Choice A is risky. Choice B is risky. Not choosing either A or B is risky.

In our efforts to avoid a risk or sense of risk by having to choose either A or B, we often avoid choosing either, which is itself a choice, thereby often incurring an even bigger risk.

Three ways that we avoid risk and thereby create more risk

The first way is that we remain indecisive, not making a clear and congruent choice, thinking there must be an option without risk or cost.

"Should I keep looking for a better job offer or should I accept the one I currently have?"

"Should we keep looking for a better restaurant option down the street or should we just eat at this one, which looks pretty good?"

"Should I continue reading this novel, which might get better, or should I give up now or it could continue to be rather dull?"

"I knew it might have been better if I had not lent my friend money and now I'm regretting that I did."

Many of us believe that we should be able to make "the best choices," "the right choices," always being confident that we won't regret the path we took. That's a belief that fights with reality.

We cannot guarantee the "best choice," but we can guarantee "no regret."


Life is risky. Choices are risky. Not making choices is risky: that's a choice too. Sometimes it's clear which path is best. Sometimes not. But, after gathering an appropriate amount of information (gathering too much information can incur bigger risks) and making our choice, you may later say, "knowing what I know now, I would have made a different choice back then," the fact is that you made the best choice possible at that time. You honor yourself for having chosen courage to accept 100% responsibility for the choice you made, knowing and accepting that this is how life works. No regrets.


We often choose to avoid a shorter-term risk at the expense of a longer-term bigger risk


The second way is that, in order to feel safe more immediately and to avoid a probable shorter-term smaller cost, you don't choose courage and you will more likely incur a bigger future cost.

As an example that dramatizes this principle: to avoid the nearer-term risk of upsetting your spouse by informing him or her you'll be an hour late getting home, you incur the delayed risk of a bigger upset when you come home an hour later without having told them in advance.

Another example: you avoid the risk of taking the extra time to check that you have everything with you when you go out the door because it will probably not be necessary, yet incurring a possible much bigger risk of not having something important with you later.

A third seemingly opposite example: you don't choose the courage to not lock and re-lock the door five times (OCD) at the expense of the longer-term risk of having your life dominated by "trying to make sure."


We avoid the feeling of risk by not questioning our beliefs about what is riskier or less risky

The third way is to avoid the risk of being upset with yourself or having to face an automatic fear you have based upon what you already think you know by not investigating or questioning what you believe about the risks involved. This often includes being aware of and guarding against cognitive biases, like the confirmation bias and the availability bias.

First example: when someone blames you, at least a part of you believes that you have to defend yourself, right? But defensiveness most often creates a bigger risk of not getting what you would prefer in that circumstance.

Second example: statisticians calculated that Americans, in order to avoid the risk of dying in an airline incident in the year following 9/11, suffered an additional 1600 deaths through automobile accidents that would not have occurred if those Americans had continued to fly as they had before 9/11. But people believed they were safer driving, primarily falling for the trap of the availability bias: plane crashes make the headlines whereas we never see any big headlines about the 35,000 plus people that die every year in the USA from automobile accidents.

Third example: my sister, three years younger than I am, who was even more devoted to intensive research and action in maintaining her health than I was/am, died at age 73. For several years she had an issue with an elevated heart rate that she tried to address with many "natural health" approaches. Last year (2020), when she and her husband did not know anything more to do about an acute condition that developed, she was rushed to the hospital. She was operated on for appendicitis, which was discovered to have been chronic and necrotic for many years. As she was recovering at home, she suffered a stroke and died soon afterward.

I strongly suspect that if she had gotten some medical tests done to check out her elevated heart rate when it first started to occur, she could have found out earlier that she had chronic appendicitis and it would not have become deadly.

But my sister considered medical doctors to be dangerous...and I agree. They can be very dangerous...most people are not wary enough of their methodologies and the limitations of their belief paradigm. But in her efforts to avoid the risks of making any use of the medical approach, if only to get some tests done, she ended up dying.

Avoiding risk can be risky (and deadly)!

bottom of page