Over the past few posts, thoughts on life’s risks have continued to flow through my mind, and the practical side of my brain has now determined a way to classify a way to think about risks in life. Whether it is youthful risks or adult ones, I believe this two-by-two (2×2) approach helps think about life’s risks.

Life Risk Matrix - A Way to Think About Risk

The two dimensions are Your Engagement and Your Consequences.

Your Engagement. This dimension describes whether you are active in the decision-making process in which the risks are being taken. Essentially, do you spend some amount of time thinking about the choice you are about to make?

There are two ways to approach making these choices:  Passive or Active. There may be some degrees in between, but it speaks to how involved you are in making the decision before taking the action.

Your Consequences. This dimension describes the outcome. Was the outcome of your choice good or bad? This is fairly straightforward. The consequence of your choice happens, and it was right, wrong, or somewhere dancing along the line in between.

With these dimensions defined, the possibilities are interesting.

Let’s explore each quadrant.

Engaged Risk. This is the ideal result, a good place to start the discussion. You are engaged fully in the choices being made, and the consequences are positive. By thinking through the steps and being active in the decisions being made, you successfully navigate through the risks and enjoy the fruits of your efforts.

There are always lessons to be learned along the way, even if the result is positive. Keep engaging. Keep learning. Keep moving forward. This is where risks produce inspired results in your life.

Uninspired Risk. You got lucky. The consequence came out right, but you were disengaged in the decision-making.  You may have arrived at a good place, but you may still seem hollow inside. Why? There wasn’t a driving inner spirit carrying you forward, so you may just waste the end result and, eventually, lose ground on the results achieved.

Remember, you got lucky on the consequences this time. An un-engaged life is spiritless and, potentially, dangerous. Be engaged. Be willful. Be spirit-filled in your choices. Doing these things will move you into the Engaged Risk quadrant.

Unwise Risk. The good news – you were engaged. You were thinking about your choices, yet something went wrong during the decision-making process. You may not have had all the necessary information. You may have gotten impatient. You may not have received, or sought after, solid advice or a different perspective.

In these cases, as always, think about what went wrong, what went right, and what you could do differently next time. There has to be some lessons learned coming out of this quadrant.

Don’t lose confidence. Don’t lose sight of what you are going after. Re-group. Re-engage. Re-think. Re-do. Act.

Go-Along Risk. How many times do people ask us to join in, and we think little about making the choice? This may happen more when we were young than as we age, but it is a dangerous risk.

It is jumping in the car with a young driver when the legal limit of the number of passengers has already been reached. It is participating in bullying when others in the group are already doing it. It is doing something just because someone else has. It may be getting the latest gadget, even if we cannot afford it, because it is the popular thing to do.

Yes, you may get lucky and have a good consequence; however, the risk-reward ratio is extremely high in this instance, and that is the point. Many times these choices are made in an instant with little-to-no thought.

Create a trigger to alert yourself to pause and think. I am not sure what it is, but something needs to prompt a hesitation in you.

The truth of the matter may be that, in some cases, something inside you issues a warning and you ignore it. Don’t. Listen to that uncomfortable feeling inside you and think about the choice you are about to make.

Take a deep breath. Think quickly about what you are about to do. Trust the feeling inside. Use that as a prompt. Hesitate, think, and then make the choice.

The point of it all.

At times, I find it useful to think about things in a simple 2×2. It is a simple framework which brings clarity to what needs to be done or a way to think about concepts.

Taking risks in life happen all the time and they should. Life without risks would be boring or, worse, inconsequential.

The point is that we need to take more engaged risks than we take un-engaged ones.

The point is that we need to listen to the feeling inside when something just doesn’t seem right.

The point is we need to take some time to think about our choices before we make them. It is not analysis paralysis. It is making engaged life choices.

The point is to live a spirit-filled life by choosing actively and doing fully.