Why do people take risks? Like moths to a flame, some seem drawn to risk – whether it manifests in life (uprooting to travel solo cross country, changing professions, going back to school to pursue a new career), or in hobbies (rock climbing, mountain biking, scuba diving, skydiving). Still others are downright risk-averse: preferring the status quo to anything outside their comfort zone.
So, what determines whether you’ll be a risk-taker or not? And who has it right? The propensity to take risks is often overly simplified as novelty-seeking behavior (with a side dish of impulsivity), but studies have shown that this isn’t entirely true.
A 2013 study conducted by colleagues Barlow, Woodman, and Hardy of Bangor University and published in the Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, examined the motivations for engaging in activities deemed high-risk, namely mountaineering and skydiving.
They concluded that while skydiving is associated with sensation seeking, the study participants “reported greater emotional regulation and agency during their activities.” While the desire for an adrenaline rush is present, engaging in activities deemed risky enables individuals to feel more in control. Likewise, the study concluded that by feeling in control in these high-risk situations, the individuals also felt more in control in their everyday lives.
The implications of this groundbreaking study help to answer the question: why do people take risks? It turns out that taking risks is actually beneficial to our emotional development and necessary to achieve self-actualization. Boom.
There are few things more liberating than the feeling of flying. People often choose to skydive because of the freedom they feel during the experience.
Moreover, skydiving offers an avenue of freedom from fear. Yes, you may feel afraid. But the fear is not in control; you are. There’s something super fulfilling about feeling triumphant over your fear, and the ripple effect is real and profound. If you can face and conquer your fear while skydiving, what else can you do? What could possibly stand in your way?
The Bangor University study considered skydiving to be a high-risk activity, and others see skydiving as novelty-seeking behavior, but we’d suggest that neither is entirely correct.
Skydiving does involve some inherent risks. However, these risks are mitigated by placing a strong emphasis on safety, including the use of state-of-the-art equipment, rigorous training, and experienced instructors. Additionally, it’s important to remember that we encounter risks every day. For example, every time we put ourselves behind the wheel of a car and leave the safety of our homes, we are taking a significant risk. Yet, we don’t bat an eye.
Whether or not skydiving is worth the risk is up to the individual. To us, skydiving is worth the risk – and we certainly wouldn’t encourage our friends, family, and strangers to try it if we didn’t believe it was mind-blowingly beneficial.
Are you ready to take a calculated risk? Every great adventure starts with one small step. Take it! Book your first tandem skydive today. You’ll be so glad you did.
Barlow, M., Woodman, T., & Hardy, L. (2013). Great expectations: Different high-risk activities satisfy different motives. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 105(3), 458–475. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0033542
University, B. (2013). News: Doctoral school: Bangor University. News | Doctoral School | Bangor University. Retrieved January 19, 2022, from https://www.bangor.ac.uk/doctoral-school/news/different-motivations-for-high-risk-activities-revealed-for-the-first-time-15204′
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