Risky business: Calculate risks to reap rewards


Studies have shown that more teenagers are prone to risk taking because their brain is not fully developed until they reach their mid-20s. Although teenagers and adolescents are risk takers, taking risks isn’t necessarily bad. There are good risks and bad risks. People do not become successful without taking good risks and people do not go to jail without taking bad risks. There are consequences for every risk a person takes.

When a teenager decides to skip school or cheat on an exam he or she is taking a bad risk, which can ultimately lead to terrible consequences. Many of these risks are done on impulse. These risk takers do not think things through and do not asses consequences.

Positive risks, on the other hand, can lead to success and big rewards. For example, moving far away from home to attend a well-known college as opposed to staying at home to attend a community college can result in leaving one’s comfort zone, obtaining a degree from a well-known university and having more enticing job prospects.

Calculate the risk

We take risks every day. Speeding on the freeway, changing jobs, investing money are all risks that most people take. The goal of risk taking is to assess whether the risk’s positive effects outweigh the risk’s negative effects.

Teenagers will take risks. Risk taking is in their nature and is how their brains are wired, so it is important for teenagers to take “smart risks” more often than “dumb risks.”

Calculating risks is tricky but it is important to learn how to take good risks to become successful. Deciding on where to go to college, which job to take, how to have a tough conversation with a boss are all risks. A key component to successful risk taking is to:

  • avoid impulsive risks
  • think things through
  • assess whether the risk’s positive effects outweigh the risk’s negative effects
  • think about the consequences
  • make sure to perfect the execution
  • discuss the risk with someone

Having an outside opinion can help shed light on a situation and illuminates the action from a different angle.

Learn from failure

It is possible despite one’s best efforts that the risks don’t go according to plan. Realize that failure is part of the risk-taking process. The key to learning from a failure is to:

  • dissect the results to understand what happened
  • learn from the mistakes
  • move on

When you move forward with knowledge, your next risk will usually have a better outcome. If you are or know someone who is an excessive risk taker and has gotten himself into major trouble and needs help, White River Academy is an adolescent boys program located in Utah that can help. For more information, please call 866-520-0905.

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