One of the most important aspects of living a healthy and prosperous life is understanding “risk.” By this I mean knowing how to understand and analyze situations in life that affect health. Being able to accurately weigh benefits and risks when making health decisions is very important! Too often decisions are based on incomplete or inaccurate information and this is a huge mistake with significant consequences!
Failure to accurately assess risk keeps people locked in all kinds of unhealthy situations including poor eating and exercise habits (lifestyle), relationships and jobs. Sometimes people are just afraid to step out and make a change. They see “risk” in making a change when the REAL risk comes from NOT making a change. From my perspective, living with the stress, unhappiness and frustration of indecision and poor health is the greatest risk of all, and one that is definitely not worth taking!
Accessing “risk” is nothing more than collecting information, weighing the alternatives and then making appropriate decisions based on the information.
Some risks to our health are more “real” than others. For example, it is common knowledge that obesity is associated with a wide variety of health problems. On the other hand, there are some health risks that are so remote we rarely think about them. On a practical level, eating highly processed foods and avoiding a daily dose of fresh fruits and vegetables is rarely considered serious. But, as too many have already discovered, the long range consequences of this practice are real and devastating.
Failure to accurately assess risk limits us in many ways. We imagine the “risk” of talking with our children about drugs, dating or sex and we put off having the “talk,” even though the risks of NOT talking are infinitely greater. Fear of flying and public speaking are two more “risks” affecting millions of people. But practically speaking, these fears are unfounded. People ride in cars every day, even though cars are far more dangerous than commercial aircraft! It’s a failure to accurately assess risk, and it limits our health, prosperity and pleasure in life.
The goods news is that failure to accurately access risk is reversible! The effects of those decisions to eat inappropriately or NOT to exercise are, as the common expression goes, “do-overs.” We can effect positive change in our lives by following a few simple steps to accurately access risk:
1. Accurately define your present situation and access your health “risks”. Are you eating a healthy diet? Are you getting enough exercise and good quality sleep? What are the consequences if you DON’T change? Weigh the benefits of healthier living vs the potential risks such as increased cost, inconvenience or discomfort.
2. What do you stand to gain if you change your present circumstances? Assess the “up-side” potential. Too often we look only at the “downside” risk and forget the benefits. What good things might happen if you take the risk and win?
3. Limit the “down-side” if you happen to make a wrong decision. Don’t continue down a path if it does not produce results. This is especially important when following weight loss programs. If the pounds are not coming off or if the weight loss is only temporary, find a new program! You not only want to lose weight, but want to sustain the weight loss for as long as possible. Take steps to ensure this will happen. Clear, concise, realistic objectives will definitely help.
4. Reduce your risk by being smart! Understand the situation and seek the advice of experts in the field of health and nutrition. This includes finding and forming partnerships to receive support and get good advice.
5. Have a fall-back position. If the decision you make fails to produce the desired results, be prepared to take a long, hard look at the circumstances and be prepared to change what you are doing.
Everything in life involves some element of risk. Driving your car, meeting someone new, crossing the street…but we do them every day. Winners in life are willing to accept the risk and continue on their way! Get involved, be smart about how you play the game, come prepared for a few failures along the way, but don’t quite. You will reap the benefits for your effort and live a happier and healthier life. I like to remember the words of the great Winston Churchill when he said, “Never, never, never give up!”