By Lauren Leon
Counselling psychologist @ PsychologistsCenturion, graduated cum laude from the University of Pretoria (MA UP).
Risk taking occurs when a person moves out of their comfort zone. An extrovert cannot be regarded as taking a risk when mixing with a group of people. But an introvert doing this will be regarded as taking a risk. Risk taking is based around thinking preferences and how we comfortably view the world. In general, people can be grouped into four thinking preference groups (Neethling Brain Instrument, NBI) and if they act within their own comfort zone they are not taking any risks:
Although we do not solely belong to one group, we have preferences in each group, yet we usually fall within one or two dominant groups. These dominant groups usually influence our behaviour and thinking styles in most situations we encounter, meaning we all have certain preferences and thinking styles which help us approach situations in a familiar and comfortable way.
This explains why certain behaviours are comfortable for some and not for others.
To take more risks requires a willingness to explore and learn. Through psychotherapy and coaching, developing skills in all groups is possible. The idea would be to learn how to strategically and effectively use skills from all four groups, when it is needed, to achieve a personal or professional goal. Look at the important areas of your life, both personally and professionally, and ask yourself if there is room to do it differently? Or more effectively?
Looking at the groups above, you may notice that one or two of the groups’ behaviours relate to how you already prefer to do things, while the other group’s behaviours may not feel as comfortable to you and you would prefer to not do things that way. We are all different and we all prefer to do things a certain way that is comfortable for us. This highlights that there will be situations, actions or circumstances that we feel more at ease compared to others and vice versa. What we decide to do in those uncomfortable moments has the potential to encourage risk taking behaviour.
People who make decisions in their own dominant group are not risk takers, there is no risk in doing what is comfortable or preferred. Risk takers are those who make decisions outside of their dominant group’s preferences. For example, a man who is comfortable in group 1 where he can remove emotions from decision making may need to challenge himself to apologise to his wife to salvage his marriage. His ability to do what is uncomfortable and not preferred shows risk taking behaviour.
Risk taking involves learning to be more flexible in borrowing skills from all four groups, when needed, even though it is uncomfortable. But why would we want to take risks and make decisions that make us uncomfortable? For us to step out of our comfort zone of preference there must be an incentive, there must be a reason. Whether that is because we want a job promotion or because we want to save our failing marriage, it requires us to step out of our comfortable thinking patterns and behave differently – if our comfortable way of doing it is not producing the results we desire.
This requires risk taking because to achieve a goal whether personal or professional, discomfort may occur. The more one learns to be flexible and develop new skills in uncomfortable areas, the easier the risk taking becomes. The more flexible and receptive one is to developing and executing new skills, despite discomfort, the more attainable and realistic goal achievement becomes.
It is important to highlight that we all take risks. Our risk taking behaviour may not seem like it to others with different preferences but that does not discount that we all take risks at times, for a purpose. Others take risks more often because they have seen the importance of learning how to be flexible to address situations differently.
If we understand that each situation cannot be addressed the same way, we start realising the importance of flexibility and continual development. When we learn to step out of our comfortable thinking preferences and develop new skills, we can approach the same situation in different ways.
Taking risks by learning how to be flexible and borrowing skills from all four groups is beneficial in almost every area of our lives, especially where we have personal or professional goals. If we function only using our preferences, we limit our skills and possibilities of approaching the same situation more effectively. However, learning and developing new skills from the other groups often comes with the price of discomfort – feeling uncomfortable, being vulnerable by leaving familiarity, increased awareness and the realisation that you can continually do it more effectively.
Highlighted below are some of the areas where people can be assisted when it comes to risk. This is to enable them to approach the same situations differently, more effectively and more strategically:
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