On the whole, we are not encouraged to take risks. Why take risks? We should be trying to stay as safe as we can and provide safety for those we love and care for. This blog aims to challenge this philosophy and will identify why taking emotional, social and physical risks is absolutely essential for us all.
Risk assessments are a huge part of my job and I have been completing them for ever. For those of you who are not aware, a risk assessment is a process that aims to identify hazards, the risk of being exposed to those hazards and finally what we can do to reduce that risk so that it is acceptable. Within education they are plentiful. We risk assess students, activities, sites, staff. You name it, we’ve assessed it! Most professionals see the process of completing risk assessments as a chore and a tick box exercise. Done properly, they do provide a meaningful process that does make you think about how you keep people’s exposure to risk appropriate. Appropriate is the word that needs to be explored in greater depth. Appropriate for who? Lets explore!
When we have people in our care either at work or at home, it is easy for us to become a little obsessed with the idea of protecting them so much that the idea of them being exposed to risk of any type scares us. Who can blame us? We are likely to be left fairly vulnerable if we are found to be exposing people in our care to inappropriate risks. I can see where this philosophy has come from and agree that assessing risks to ensure that they are appropriate is a good thing but in my view, there is a down side that is having a profoundly negative effect on us and our children.
So why is taking risks a good thing? I’m not talking about jumping out of a plane sort of risk although they can be good too (not without a risk assessment of course). I’m talking about the sort of risks that we all need to take every day in order to become successful, to build meaningful relationships and to feel happy. Taking being successful as an example; if I want to achieve a goal, I need to take a risk. It is easier and safer not to but as a result we don’t achieve the goal. To actually try to achieve something, there is a chance that we might fail which is scary. On the other hand, there is of course a chance that we might succeed. If we find success, our skill level and confidence in ourselves grows and allows us to take greater risks next time. If we fail, and we will, we may need to break our goal down into smaller pieces so that they are more achievable, ask for help or put that goal on the back burner for a while. Think about the risks that you have to take every day to be successful. Imagine if you didn’t. If you just settled for the safe and easy option. I know that when I have lost my courage for a while, it has had a negative impact on my mental health, wellbeing and happiness. In my opinion, we must try not to settle with the easy, safe option. It leads to a place that detracts from who you are and in time to low motivation and unhappiness.
When we are born, if all is well we build attachments to our primary care givers (parents in most cases). We learn that when we cry, someone comes to comfort us. When we get lost in the supermarket, someone will find us. When our parents leave a room, they will come back. This secure attachment in our early years has a significant impact on our ability to take risks for the rest of our lives. It gives us a deep feeling of safety that allows us to go away and take risks because we know that whatever happens, there will be someone there to help us and make it better if needed. Of course as we grow up, we have to become more independent but that secure feeling from our early years goes with us and we learn through taking risks that we can count on ourselves to make things better when we fail.
The trouble is, I think that we are becoming more risk adverse within society. I think it is a contributing factor to the increasing level of people with poor mental health. What’s going on?
Well, I don’t want to turn this post into a degree paper but I think that the amount of choices we all have actually causes us stress and anxiety that stop us taking risks. I also hear the phrase, “this child has poor attachments” within my work all of the time. It is on the increase and I believe that it too stops them taking risks.
I am about to take a really big risk and I wonder how I have found the courage. Well, when I look back at the events leading up to it, its easy see how. My marriage was in real trouble and I knew something had to change there. Then my dad died and that certainly made me realise that life is short and precious and there is certainly no time to be unhappy for any significant period of time. I had no choice, and this made taking the risk easier. It was big but it was appropriate for me.
Last week I spoke about my fear of change getting in the way of my dreams. I have been humbled by the amount of feedback that I have received from people telling me how brave I am and how I am inspiring them to look at their own life choices. This is why I wanted to write about risk today. We all should, and need to take risks in our lives. For me, at the moment I’m taking a big one. Its only big because for a few years I think I may have strayed away from the direction I wanted to head in. My advice is to take risks every day that keep you on the track that you want to be on. The further away you get from your track, the harder and the greater the risk will be to find happiness again.
Thanks again for the support, keep it coming. It helps me to feel confident enough to take the risk of writing honestly about my thoughts, emotions and experiences.