Is Living Dangerously and Risk Taking Critical to Your Hapiness and Success?

A friend and blogger ApplePieMom brought an idea to my attention yesterday in her post Living Dangerously.

The idea that living dangerously enhances life is a conundrum that rolls around in my head frequently.

I understand AppliePieMom’s point that simply taking a few economic risks isn’t the same fighting in a war zone. No doubt. The difference is one of degree. Are you risking your life, your job, your money, your marriage, your freedom, your health, or your reputation? We clearly put different values on each of these things.

But that doesn’t get at the fundamental question…

Is Living Dangerously and Risk Taking Critical to Your Happiness and Success?

It is to me, but it is nuanced and complex.

Almost everything worth doing is risky.

I was driving down the freeway and my son yelled, “Dad the speed limit is 70 and you’re going 78. The policeman is going to take you to jail.”

I thought about it a minute and I said this to my son…

“First, no one is going to take me to jail. If I get caught I’ll have to pay fine. Second do you notice how everyone else is going even faster? If I drive slower we will be in more danger than if I keep up with the flow of traffic.

One of the most important things to learn about life isn’t to obey all the rules. It’s to learn the rules, know when you’re breaking them, and what the consequences are if you get caught.”

Risk taking and danger doesn’t always involve breaking the rules, but more often than not it does.

The need for risk and challenge can manifest itself  in harmless ways…

When a golfer first plays a clean round of golf, they can find it isn’t what they thought it’d be. They thought it’d be exhilarating but instead it was boring. Why? It is more interesting to get yourself into a mess and get yourself out than it is to execute near perfection.

Or
manifest itself in incredibly destructive ways…

Claude Steiner writes about this in The Games Alcoholics Play. He states alcoholics and addicts don’t find “normal” life interesting. They are caught in an destructive obsessive form of risk taking, consistently digging themselves into a hole and recovering. This is why they are more likely to relapse when life is going well than when they are having problems. They crave not only alcohol but the risk that goes with it.

Some people climb mountains, others jump from airplanes, and some put their life savings down on a startup. These activities make them feel alive.

What do you think? Is living dangerously critical to your hapiness and success?

For me it is. Too much safety and comfort bore me and lead to apathy. But there are a couple of caveats…

  • The risk must be calculated and intelligent, not a blind gamble or reckless endangerment.
  • The likely result of my risk taking should be constructive and positive.

ApplePieMom shares her experience as the mother of a 26 year old soldier on the ground in Afghanistan.

14 thoughts on “Is Living Dangerously and Risk Taking Critical to Your Hapiness and Success?”

  1. All drastic changes, for better or worse, involve risks. I think whatever we do, we should be aware of consequences. (If we are gamblers, we should be aware that we can very well lose everything if we bet everything.) Just make sure you know the consequences, and you are mentally prepared for whichever outcome it turns out to be.

  2. Everyone should be aware of the consequences of his/her acts before taking a decision, in this way, like Kelvin says, you are already mentally prepared for what will be next. My advice: always think twice before deciding! :)

  3. Kelvin, understanding the consequences is key. When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat she was aware of the potential consequences and took the risk anyway.

    Anca, Thinking twice is sometimes a luxury. It depends on the situation, But yes, I agree you should always think twice when it is reasonable.

    A reader wrote an email with a distinction and I want to share with you…

    *One of the most important things to learn about life isn’t to obey all the
    rules. It’s to learn the rules, know when you’re breaking them, and what the consequences are if you get caught.”

    I would modify that a bit to —

    **One of the most important things to learn about life isn’t to obey all the
    rules. It’s to learn the rules, know when you’re breaking them, and what the consequences are if you get caught, and also quite important, how those actions (when breaking them) relate to your values and your character.

    For example, what lesson does your son take from your driving example? Does he understand that nuance? Or when he starts driving, remember “my dad drives over speed limits, so it is fine for me to do”

  4. If following my dreams is living dangerously, then YES :-) In many instances, doing something that isn’t easy is a risk, and though it may not be dangerous, it may feel like that if we are forced to go against things that we have been taught & internalized over the years.

    You should still know the consequences of your actions and be prepared for them. But often the worst case scenario is highly unlikely and the choice less dangerous than perceived.

  5. Is risk taking critical to success? I would say yes it is, if playing it safe lead to success, everyone would be successful, so then you’d have to redefine success, and then people who put more on the line (and win) get the success.

    Bigger (calculated) risk = bigger reward, but I don’t think this is necessarily the case for happiness. It depends on personality, some people can live quite well without risk, some people need it, or like you Steve, get bored without it.

    Also everyone’s idea of ‘risk’ is different, depending how cautious/brave we are. Because of that, it’s probably a bit unwise to take huge risks to see if we like it. Might scare us off if we’re the cautious type. Probably better to find out what we find a little bit risky, and work up from there.

    Interesting questions!

  6. Well done!

    I like to take risk but the type where I have some control over the outcome. I don’t play the lotto, shoot dice, or jump out of airplanes. Now, if bear wrestling was a legal sport, I like my chances.

  7. I say in life taking risks build confidence, characters and a destiny. say stretch that comfort zone until you feel as f you feel more comfortable sleep in on the hard wood floor. Individuals that take risks move a head of the pack and start to become movers and shakers . While the majority of people are walking slowly to death….

    great post!

  8. You’re making quite catchy headlines and titles for your posts that I stay much longer in your blog than any other blogs. The supporting details are very informative and I understand that sometimes we need to take risks so we can improve ourselves just as the simple cliche goes, no pain no gain. For some it may be dangerous for a career move especially if you’re going to leave something good for something hopefully better. Like if you badly want a career switch to find yourself. Well I gotta say once you get into that part, don’t find yourself, make yourself.

  9. I’m a professional family person but one a while I have to do crazy (respectful) things in life to keep me going. If I don’t I get very down. I never do stuff to hurt nobody, but I do crazy thing that could cause me allots of troubles. Why I’m doing this?
    Life without adrenaline is bored…

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