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Risk: The Difference between probable and possible.

When it comes to analyzing risk we often will pay too much attention to what is POSSIBLE and not enough time on what is PROBABLE.


As we move through our personal and professional lives, at home or on the job, we naturally and necessarily operate with a level of automation. We go about our daily lives with familiar things being nothing more than white noise. Familiar routes we take when we drive, often have us going through the motions where we are able to arrive at a destination having not remembered portions of the route we took to get there. We can walk through our comfort zones and not notice everything around us. The ability to do so is not only helpful, it is necessary.

Otherwise, we would live in a state of hyper vigilance and the stress of the sensory information would be overwhelming.


Our own automation however, allows us to get very comfortable with day to day risks as well. Again, a very helpful trait. With so many things that can potentially harm us, if we were fully conscious of all dangers we could face day-to-day, living wouldn't be much fun.


When something unfamiliar comes along, we tend to move out of automation and pay very close attention. The more unfamiliar something is, the more we need to focus. The more aware we are of what little we know the more likely we may see greater risk than other things truly more risky we are simply familiar with. Fear and risk calculation often comes from our awareness of a threat and our sense of not being able to manage it.


True or not, if we FEEL familiar with something we are less likely to feel threatened by it. The less comfortable or knowledgeable we are about something the more likely we will sense a level of risk or threat regardless of its' actual danger or even the probability of that occurring.


This is often why, for example, people who only fly once a year may fear flying but not fear driving. Despite the probability of one being injured in a vehicle accident is far more likely than an airplane accident. What is POSSIBLE, becomes far more real emotionally to a person than what is PROBABLE.


Often these calculations are emotionally influenced, making them that much harder to reconcile with a logical approach simply by doing a quick probable vs possible calculation.


A true conundrum: The fear of an unlikely occurrence can be as equally dangerous as NO concern in respect to a likely occurrence. One can be paralyzing, trapping a person in a state of worry or stress over a doubtful reality. The other can actually be harmful as you enjoy blissful ignorance of the things that can harm you.


The best way to balance the polar sides of your risk calculation is to consider your risk reality. In a world where anything is possible, it's likely time we pay a little closer attention to what is probable.


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