Saturday, 22 March 2014

Risk assessment

My attitude to risk is very contradictory. Some highly risky things don't bother me at all. Others bother me a lot, probably more than they ought to.

I have no qualms about flying, even right across the world. I know there's always a risk of crashes, of fires, of hijacks. But statistically it's the safest form of travel and I have every confidence my next flight will be disaster-free.

I'm okay with driving too. I know that's a very dangerous form of travel, and that serious, possibly fatal, accidents occur all the time. But I'm confident that as long as I'm always alert and attentive, catastrophe is unlikely.

On the other hand, I'm very nervous about hospitals and operations. I'm aware that most operations are routine and successful, but I'm rather too aware of the small percentage that go horribly wrong and leave you in a worse state than before - or even dead. I mean, just suppose I'm one of that small percentage?

I'm also wary of financial risk. I keep my money in the bank and that's it. I'm suspicious of investments and fancy money-making schemes that may go suddenly pear-shaped, swallow up all my money and leave me penniless.

I can be very timid about making big changes in my life, be it a new job, a new home, even a new political allegiance. It might seem like a positive move, it might enhance my life, but what are the unforeseen consequences? Could I be making a reckless mistake, one I live to regret?

Oddly enough though, I was quite sure that moving from London to Belfast was the right thing to do, even though I had no job to go to, I had no relatives living there, and the peace process was only in its early stages. I somehow had confidence it would all work out, and it did.

Why am I quite nonchalant about some risks and over-anxious about others? Why am I so inconsistent? The vagaries of the human mind are a constant puzzle.


  1. I would think most people are like you. Otherwise, the world would be at a standstill.

  2. Bijoux: Eh? Surely the world would only be at a standstill if nobody anywhere was prepared to take a risk about anything, and they were all cowering in their living rooms (what a wonderful image!)

  3. All of us keep taking risks all the time Nick. Most of the time we just don't know that we are taking risks. For instance, I am taking a risk writing this on your blog post. Who knows? You may be an alien agent sent to trap unsuspecting Indians like me into laying bare our inner most secrets!

  4. Ramana: Damn, rumbled! You're right, we take risks all the time without thinking about it. That the ferry won't sink. That the restaurant meal won't give us food poisoning. That the cabbie isn't drunk. If we didn't take those risks, everyday life would grind to a halt.

  5. Perceived risks are relative to one's experience and knowledge, aren't they? Some locals are so timid, they would never venture to the big city of Little Rock, yet we think nothing of it. Years ago, when we lived in Connecticut, I would never stop in New York city, though we passed through many times -- bypassing the city to get to where I was stationed added hours to the trip. Yet, when we visited there with our daughter and her little family in 2001, it was quite enjoyable.

    So far as financial, I am very cautious of the risk -- now! Before I retired, I wasn't so cautious, but never took a significant loss.

    I think I may do a related post. If I do, I'll link back to this one.

    Have a great rest of the weekend!

  6. Whether you want to call it a 'risk' or a 'chance' to me matters not. But early on in my life I established a goal for myself which I have to say I was true to until this day.

    I decided when I had barely turned 30 that the day I found myself old and wrinkled sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch of a nursing home I would never have to say to anyone that I regretted not doing something that I had wanted to do in my life.

    And to this day I hear people saying that all the time. There will certainly be times when it was a good choice, other times not so much. But if you are a common sense type of individual who gives things their due consideration, you'll be fine.

  7. When I moved to France from the U.K. I had people saying...aren't you brave!
    Same again on moving to Costa Rica.

    You must have heard the same thing when you moved to Northern Ireland.

    They never seem to think that it could be more risky staying where you are!

  8. A few years ago, I had to climb a ladder onto a steep roof and hammer nails. I just sat up there, frozen. I don't like ladders, and I don't like heights. I also hate watching other people use ladders.

  9. Mike: True about people too timid to venture out of their own immediate area, or venture to another country. I gather quite a high percentage of Americans have never been out of the USA.

    A related post would be interesting!

    Alan: That was a very sensible and far-sighted goal, and it seems that you achieved it. I never set myself a similar goal but I can also say I've done all the things I really wanted to do.

  10. Helen: You're right, lots of people thought we were brave, or even crazy, to move to Belfast, but we've never regretted it. If we'd stayed in London, the cost of living (especially housing) would have been quite a burden.

    Susie: I don't like ladders either, I'm always nervous that they'll suddenly collapse under me. I'm happier if someone's firmly anchoring the bottom!

  11. I would never ever bungee jump. Lots of perfectly safe things are too risky for me. On the other hand people say i'm brave to go into prison. (I don't think so.)

    we all have our pet fears.

  12. Liz: I wouldn't bungee jump either, the idea of being entirely dependent on a bit of elastic puts me right off.

  13. "The vagaries of the human mind are a constant puzzle". Believe me, it gets worse as you get older. Just lately I am obsessed with tidying up my life just in case the inevitable happens. I don't want to leave a lot of bother and hassle for the person who has to sort out my affairs when I kick the bucket.

    Unlike you I don't like flying. It makes my arms ache.

  14. I'm afraid of ladders too. Solid step ladders are as high as I will go. On the other hand, I have traveled around the world in planes. Go figure

  15. Keith: If I drop dead, Jenny will have the unenviable task of making sense of all my personal bits and pieces.

    Jean: Stepladders aren't too bad. But ordinary ladders always seem too rickety for my liking.

  16. Sorry, Nick....that's what I meant. We all take certain risks or nothing would get done. OTOH, if everyone took risks all the time, we'd also be stuck with a lot unproductive people. Someone needs to do the boring jobs!

  17. I guess you could say I take calculated risks.I am petrified of flying yet I love driving and riding motorbikes.If I can control the situation I'm ok, not that I'm a control freak or anything......

  18. Bijoux: True that someone needs to do the boring stuff. Thankfully there are people who actually enjoy what I see as boring jobs!

    Bonsiamum: Good point about whether you can control the situation. Though even on a motorbike, you can't control other road users who might cause an accident.

  19. I worry more about things now than I did... But things like flying, and travel in general.....
    I used to love it
    Now I hate it

  20. John: That's a shame, your not enjoying travel or flying any more. Perhaps you just need an exciting destination to fly to?

  21. Actually, that's not even a little unusual. Every one has their own particular level of risk tolerance and it varies by type of risk. I am also fairly risk-averse when it comes to money, but will buy an old house and remodel it even without any knowledge of how to do that. It scares me to walk alone at night but I will hop into a tiny plane and fly over the rainforest without a second thought. We all just have things that scare us and things that don't. Logic often doesn't play a big part in fears.

  22. Agent: Some good examples of the irrationality of fear and risk-taking. There's no way I would ever have taken on the task of remodelling a house, though I've taken on big mortgages when my income was far from secure.

  23. Nick you took a BIG risk the time you agreed to meet an old biddy from blogland for coffee!

    I must not have been so bad, since we repeated the experience. One of these days we must do it again!

  24. You got me thinking, Nick, a good thing in my present state. I would have to say I am relationship adverse, that of the intimate live-in variety. A terrible fear. I wouldn't have said this before my self-knowledge wasn't that great. I think this explains why I have so very many fairly intimate friends, they don't threaten my personal space.

  25. Grannymar: Yes, we must. Old biddy indeed. You're still
    at the peak of your powers!

    Www: Fair enough, I can understand someone being used to their independence and being alarmed by the prospect of sharing with another person. Having lots of close friends is really all you need.

  26. Indeed it is all a puzzle. I suspect that the things we perceive as risky have a connection with past experiences - either our own or other people's. Maybe we read a report in the paper at a particularly sensitive period in our lives. Maybe we knew someone who suffered a certain fate, etc

    And maybe the converse is true too: the things we don't see as high-risk are things that we have experienced in a positive way before we heard about the negatives.

    There surely must also be a personality/genetics component too.

    I'm similar to you: I find hospitals risky places, but plane travel doesn't bother me. I am aware of how unsafe cars are, though, and always feel happy to get home safely!

  27. Jay: I suspect a lot of it is to do with past experiences, even if we don't remember them. And that's a good point about having positive experiences before we hear all the negative stuff.

    Funnily enough, I don't think of very long car journeys as any riskier than very short ones. But obviously they are!