It’s not merely a matter of being willing to take risks, because that can also lead to recklessness. Taking calculated risks is about assessing potential gains versus potential losses, and making wise decisions accordingly. You do sometimes need to risk failure for the sake of the potential rewards, but generally there should be a greater probability for a positive outcome than a negative one. The keys are first to understand the odds, and second to do whatever you can to improve them.
Military strategy makes a good analogy. Defensive strategy tends to play it safe. But caution and self-preservation can’t be an army’s only considerations. If they were, that army would never manage to gain new territory. Successful strategies include taking risks, departing from the norm, doing the unexpected, and seizing the moment.
It’s difficult to decide to do something that involves a high degree of risk, even when there is potential for great reward, but life is full of such situations. Here are a few points to keep in mind the next time one comes your way:
Assess the time factor. Few windows of opportunity stay open permanently. Sometimes the choice to pursue or not to pursue a certain opportunity must be made rather quickly, but don’t allow yourself to be pressured into a hasty, ill-advised decision.
Study the situation. Thoroughly and objectively consider the pros and cons, and calculate the odds for success as best you can. Then try to determine what you can do to improve those odds.
Learn from others. Try to find accounts of others who have taken similar risks, and examine why they succeeded or failed.
Include God in the decision-making process. God can and wants to help things turn out well for you,1 and He will if you’re in tune and in step with Him.2 He sees the whole picture, and He will help you see it more clearly if you ask Him to.3
Don’t abandon common sense. Risk-taking is not about abandoning common sense, and neither is trying to find God’s mind on the matter. God wants us to exercise our faith in Him, and He does sometimes work in mysterious ways, but He also gave us the power to reason for a purpose. He expects us to think things through.
Be willing to take action. You can’t afford to be impulsive, but you also can’t wait for everything to be perfect and risk-free; you need to be prepared to commit when the time is right, to seize the day.
If a seemingly golden opportunity should come your way and it’s right for you, you can be sure that God planned and orchestrated it. When that’s the case, a calculated risk can become the gateway to success.
1. Jeremiah 29:11
2. Psalm 84:11; 1 John 5:14–15
3. Jeremiah 33:3; James 1:5