Distinguish Between Uncertainty And Risk To Minimise Decision Anxiety

Distinguish Between Uncertainty and Risk to Minimize Decision Anxiety

Plenty of choices in life can make us nervous or anxious: choosing the wrong university, buying the wrong car. However, not every uncertainty is necessarily a risk. Learn to tell the difference to make choices easier.

Photo by Martin Fisch

As writer Seth Godin explains, often what we're really seeking when we try to minimize risk is certainty. We want to know that we're picking a good future, so we feel uncomfortable not knowing which choice is the "right" one. However, if all possible outcomes give you more or less what you want, worrying about the uncertainty gains you nothing.

A simple example: the typical high school student applying to a range of colleges has very little risk of getting in nowhere. Apply to enough schools that match what you have to offer, and the odds are high indeed you'll get in somewhere. Low risk but a very high uncertainty about which college or colleges will say yes. That's not risky. That's uncertain. It takes fortitude to live with a future that's not clearly imagined, but it's no reason not to apply.

This concept can apply to social situations, investment, or even buying decisions. You may never be entirely certain about an outcome before you make a decision. However, knowing that uncertainty is not inherently a risk enables you to be more bold and make decisions, rather than succumbing to analysis paralysis because you fear making a non-existent "correct" choice.

Uncertainty is not the same thing as risk [Seth Godin]

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