What is Risk and Why We Need It

Do you perceive risk as negative and something that needs to be eliminated? Then you may be missing the most interesting part of your story.

Perception of risk is a complicated beast, having roots in both culture and context.

The Oxford dictionary defines risk as peril, jeopardy, danger, hazard, chance. Depending on your perception, these words could have a negative connotation.

The word risk only appeared in the English language in 1661 AD. It has been suggested that it’s actual roots are in the Latin word resicum meaning fortune and the Arabic word rizq meaning blessing. Can we return to this perception of risk instead of treating it as something to be avoided?

How you perceive risk in a particular situation may be completely different to others, depending on your culture and experience. The differing perceptions of the ocean are a perfect example, they can vary like the wind, waves and tides. To some, the ocean is a terrifying mystery and to others, a peaceful sanctuary or anything in between.

Having spent all my life on and by the sea, I am well versed in the risks associated with the marine environment. I know something, but I don’t know everything. There’s always more to learn and that’s an exciting prospect indeed! But to others, that’s a reason to stay away. Perceived risk and lack of experience is a reason for avoidance, which breeds the delusion of safety.

“If I don’t do that, then it can’t hurt me”

We let our imagination determine the outcome, and that can sometimes be far more terrifying than reality.

Wouldn’t it be better to educate, explore and experience, so we are better equipped to manage the risks? When risk is managed, only then is safety increased. Not the other way around.

When our perception of risk changes, so does our response and our ability to manage it. If you see a wave approaching, do you hastily swim to shore to avoid it, catch it for an exhilarating ride, or dive down, look up and watch it pass you by? The choice is yours.

The decision becomes easier with knowledge and experience, which are only gained by taking risks. Humans are wonderful at adaptation. We use courage and ingenuity to assess and solve problems, work together to develop strategies and create rewarding outcomes. What a blessing.

There’s no good without bad, no love without loss, no joy without sadness and no feeling of safety without risk.

If we’re always watching waves from a distance, we’ll never know how it feels to take that exhilarating ride back to the safety of the shore.

Still have questions?

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