The Psychology of Risk-Taking

The Psychology of Risk-Taking


Risk-taking is the willingness to take a chance and try something new, that may have the possibility of failing or succeeding. Taking chances is one of the ways of learning and advancing one’s skills, as you are gaining experience. It allows you to develop the skills, abilities, and confidence as a person, as it pushes you outside your comfort zone. Taking risks can open doors to new opportunities and experiences that you wouldn’t have otherwise come across, leading you to achieve bigger goals.

Imagine Rohan who has decided to start a new business. Rohan’s venture involves a significant financial investment, time commitment, and uncertainty about the market. Rohan recognizes this potential for success like financial independence, personal fulfillment, and the satisfaction of creating something unique. Rohan is also aware about the risks involved like the possibility of financial loss, uncertainty of the business’ success.

Let’s understand what are some characteristics that make up a risk-taker:


Risk takers are able to manage and overcome their fear more effectively. They have a high threshold for tolerating the uncertainty and ambiguity that one can face in stressful times.


Risk takers are bold enough to venture into a new place, and choose the road not taken by many. They are ready to face challenges with confidence rather than retreating due to the fear of failure.

Also Read: What does it mean to have healthy self-esteem

Growth Mindset:

Risk takers know that to achieve something, it will take some hard work and dedication to accomplish any task challenge. They have a continuous desire to learn, and adapt and are more open to acquiring new knowledge and skills as they navigate unfamiliar territory.

Self confidence:

Risk takers showcase self-confidence and a strong belief in their abilities to handle challenges and achieve their goals. They tend to have a positive outlook, that can contribute to the belief that risks are worth taking and that success is achievable for them.

Decision making:

Risk takers have high tolerance for uncertainty and can trust their judgement. They have confidence in their own abilities to handle the consequences of their own decisions. Strong strategic thinking skills, that often involve visualizing and evaluating potential outcomes, aligning their decisions with their overall objectives, and contributing to their thought processes before they make an informed decision.

Thomas Edison, the inventor of light bulbs, made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts after he finally invented a light bulb. He viewed taking risks as an opportunity to learn, adapt, and reshape the way we approach, and persist through the challenges. Edison’s approach was iterative. Iterative problem-solving is a hallmark of successful inventors and innovators. He made incremental improvements with each attempt, building on the knowledge gained from previous failures.

Also Read: The Psychology of Entrepreneurs

According to Brian Tracy, taking risks is an essential part of achieving personal or professional success. When you are taking risks, you’re opening up to new oppurtunites and challenges, that are new and unordinary to you. Taking risks helps you grow as a person, as you learn how to manage failure and move past your comfort zone. In the environment of discomfort, and risk-taking, you are actually experiencing ‘growth’.

Facing uncertainty and challenges is an experience that induces resilience in a person. Resilience is termed as the capacity to withstand or recover from difficult situations. Someone who is ready to take a risk can be seen to be ready to take up challenges in life.

How to become a better risk taker?

The idea of ‘change’ and uncertainty can be seen to be daunting. Moving past the fear of failure is an essential step towards risk taking. When you obsess more on the worst-case scenario you may lose out on discovering other potential paths to success. Letting go of the anxiety and focusing on the positive outcomes can help you develop resources and save your mental energy.

Taking planned risks: Cultivating hope and action

According to Synder’s Hope theory, hope can be cultivated by (1) setting goals that are attainable, (2) pathway planning- generating at least one or more usable routes to a desired goal, and (3) agency thinking- initiating action to accomplish the desired goal.

Goals help you approach life in a more goal-oriented way, rather than mindlessly following a random meaningless route. Think, what do I want to achieve out of the risk I am taking? How will this risk take me to the place I want to be? Pathways help finding the different ways to achieve the goal you want. Believing in yourself, and that you can instigate change and achieve the goals you desire, is what is called agency.

SMART goal

When taking risks to achieve a goal, it is advised to set a SMART goal, to objectively define how you will take the risk. A SMART goal is: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Defining the goal clearly can make it easier to allocate resources, and plan for potential risks. Measurable goals provide a clearer indication of success and help in tracking your achievements. Your goal should feel achievable and realistic because setting an unrealistic goal can lower motivation. A time-bound goal increases a sense of urgency, prevents procrastination, and encourages timely action.

Also Read: Why you should be Optimistic?

Goal-orienting thinking is the foundation of hope, it can be long-term or short-term. Statements like “I want to get to get a promotion”, “I want to learn how to drive”, “I want to gain experience in the field of Business” are examples of goals. Mental imagery, envisioning yourself actually pursuing the desired goal, can help you build some belief in your dreams and goals. Belief in your abilities and focusing your thoughts and energy in a certain direction can drive you to action.

Pathway planning

The production of several pathways is important to increase high hopes where the person perceives that there are alternative (realistic) routes to accomplish the goal. A very essential component of the accomplishment of any goal is ‘agentic thinking’ meaning the perceived capacity to use one’s pathways to reach their desired goals. In easy words, believe that you can find a workable route to your goals. The more creative a determined you are about finding multiple ways to find paths to your goals, the more hopeful you are likely to be. Instigating change, and persistent efforts to turn the vision into reality. Agency thinking is essential at the time when your path seems to be blocked, giving you flexibility and willingness to move in a different direction.

SWOT analysis

It is important that you are aware of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT analysis) of the risk-taking activity you are about to do. Being aware of our weaknesses can enable us to prepare ourselves for any situation that is likely to arise. Integrating the SMART goal framework and being mindful of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats can significantly enhance the effectiveness of risk-taking behaviors.

“Believing in yourself is the soul engine of your path to success”
The ultimate aspect of risk-taking is believing in yourself. Note that fear and doubt are feelings that will stay with you throughout the process, although it is essential that you avoid letting them consume you as that can hinder the path of achieving your goal.

Fostering a sense of belief in your own abilities is the way you can develop confidence and control over your own actions. Visualizing and creating hopeful pathway thinking can help your mind believe in the numerous ways that you can achieve the thing you want. One who takes risks, finds paths to unlock their true potential because diving into the unknown is what drives us towards growth.

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