Is Your Career Risk Aversion Costing You?

It’s a well known tendency: We weigh potential losses more heavily than potential opportunities. Call it “loss aversion,” “survival instinct,” or “negativity bias,” it all boils down to a tendency to favor the status quo over what could be — because what could be is unknown and therefore, kind of scary.

It helps us to survive and maintain a semblance of predictability and order in an unpredictable world. Unfortunately, it also closes doors to all kinds of opportunities. And the sad part is, we’ll never even know. We will, on the other hand, always be acutely aware of what we could lose if we change something — or if the world changes, as it did dramatically in 2020.

I’m not arguing for perpetual wandering or grass is greener — or that privilege, risk, and environmental constraints aren’t real things. Ultimately it’s about whole-heartedness and self actualization. It’s about what we and the world could gain, and how we could grow, if we invest in the things we truly care about, are called to, and are genuinely built for. The call can take the form of a laser sharp vision, a gentle but persistent tug on the sleeve, a dull ache, full-blown existential crisis, a burning desire, or a magnetic and mysterious force enticing us into the unknown.

Risk aversion in our careers costs us, especially in the volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous circumstances we now find ourselves in. How much exactly? Let yourself dream a little. Then you’ll know :)

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Casey Onder, PhD

Psychologist, success coach, believer in solid behavioral science and the power of tuning in.