Take a Chance Day… or Not

“Take a Chance Day” was on April 20, and it inspired me to consider risk within a Choice Theory basic needs framework. I call Glasser’s five basic needs the need for Safety & Security, Connection, Significance, Freedom, and Joy. When it comes to taking chances, not all needs are created equal.

Some people enjoy taking chances. People with a dominant Freedom need, for example, are always pushing the limits to see how far they can go. They like risk; it makes them feel alive.

Joy-dominant people have different preferences for Joy. Some seek active, kinetic ways to meet Joy. Others prefer quiet, relaxing Joy. Then there’s the discovery-learning type of Joy. It’s possible to satisfy the need for Joy through a combination of these methods. If your preference is kinetic, you are more likely to enjoy risk. Anyone interested in extreme sports knows what I mean. On the other hand, if you prefer relaxing or learning, risk may not be that important to you.

People with a high Connection need prioritize relationships over everything else. If they are connected to someone who engages in high-risk activities, the Connection-dominant person may join to avoid being left behind. Alternatively, if the risk is too scary, they may opt out of the activity while spending their time worrying about the person doing the risky thing.

When you are Significance-dominant, taking the risk will depend on whether that risk aligns with the area you are working to affect. If you are working to break a record in mountain climbing, you will be motivated to take risks to push those limits. When your goal is to be the best parent you can possibly be, you will risk the scrutiny of others to do what you think will be best for your children despite popular opinion. However, if there is risk involving something that could detract from your ability to excel in your chosen area, you will likely avoid it.

Finally, if you are a Safety & Security-dominant person, you tend to avoid risk unless you have examined it from all angles and crafted a plan to manage all possible contingencies. With your rigorous planning processes, you mitigate the risk until it falls within your comfort zone.

In relationships, risk tolerance can sometimes create a lot of friction between people. Whether it’s a parent and their child, life partners, or work colleagues, risk can be a topic of monumental importance. I love that there is a day designated as “Take a Chance Day,” because I have a high Freedom need. Taking risks is something I truly enjoy, so this day speaks to me. On the other hand, I have a good friend who is Safety & Security-dominant, and there is nothing she wants to celebrate less than taking risks. If I were her, I wouldn’t want to feel ashamed for not taking risks on April 20 or any other day of the year. Risk for her does not have the same benefit as it does for me.

Sometimes people become risk-averse not only because of their genetically structured need-strength profile but also because of their own experiences. When I made the decision to move from rural Pennsylvania to Chicago to start my own coaching business in 2004, I felt nothing but excitement. Eager for a new start, I only saw the possibilities that lay ahead of me. I had a similar experience in 1976 when my parents moved our family 30 minutes down the road, over the border from New York to Pennsylvania—not a far move, but it meant the difference of having a graduating class of 33 to 230. I thought I had made it to the big time! Being able to make new friends easily, the move turned out to be very good for me. The move didn’t work out as well for my brother, who suffered from missing his friends. He had gone from a place where everyone knew him to where he knew no one. Where I was outgoing and sought out new friends, he was willing to settle for those who first reached out to him. Given our two experiences, it would make sense that my brother is more risk-averse than me. Nature and nurture both come into play.

I want to make the case that taking chances is not for everyone. It usually comes down to whether the potential benefits are greater than your fear. It’s usually easier and more comfortable to stay in the smaller playground of our comfort zone, a predictable space where we know what to expect. Outside that comfort zone lies discomfort, failure, and devastation—but contentment, success, and bliss can also be discovered. You must learn to assess whether the costs are worth or outweigh the benefits. And remember, you are only making possible calculations; you cannot know the outcome ahead of time.

Only you can decide if today, or any day, is “Take a Chance Day” for you. Don’t wait for it to feel comfortable because it never will. However, don’t allow anyone else to talk you into something that you are not ready for. They won’t have to live with any consequences nor will they be able to reap your rewards.

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