TO RISK OR NOT TO RISK, THAT IS THE QUESTION. HERE IS AN ANSWER for evaluating risk is something I know about; not because I am a huge risk taker, but because for almost 15 years I directed community mental health crisis programs in the Bronx. As a result, I was also asked to become one of the trainer’s for New York City’s Mental Health Crisis Teams. So here is a bit of what I taught.
- When faced with taking a risk: rely on both your heart and your head. Using only your heart (gut) or only your head means something important gets ignored.
- Don’t be ruled by fear. Fear urges running from risks. I would avoid walking a tight rope, jumping off a cliff, walking down a dark alley in a dangerous part of town. These are reasonable fears. Fear, however, often signals risk where there is none. Shy? When fear tells you “Don’t go to that party” or “Don’t speak up at a meeting,” fear is wrong. Do the opposite, go to the party, speak up and out. You will grow stronger.
- For some risk taking is fear of being afraid. Adolescent risk taking is often this type of fear and that can get kids in trouble. Sad, but a fact of life. Again, the solution is facing fear and not being controlled by it. But in this case, it means facing the real fear–being seen as afraid.
- Rating scales are useful tools for taming fear. The little feeling thermometer on the side of this blog is a rating scale. Before taking a risk, use a rating scale to help you decide what to do. How much physical danger is involved?. Ten would mean most people die if they take the risk in question, while one would be no one ever died taking this particular risk. Any thing can be measured on this type of rating scale. How badly will you feel if you take the risk and fail? How good will you feel if you at least try, not matter whether you succeed or fail. How terrible will it be if others laugh at you for backing off?
- When in doubt, don’t.
The teams I trained were charged with keeping children and adolescents who were suicidal safe. Risky business. But life is risky and most risks are manageable particularly if you get your heart and head to think together.
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