Decision-Making 101: Evaluating Risk vs. Reward

Written by Angela Atkinson

“You’ve got a lot of choices. If getting out of bed in the morning is a chore and you’re not smiling on a regular basis, try another choice.”  ~Steven D. Woodhull

As human beings, we are almost universally less than stellar at evaluating risk and reward.

Are you ever willing to bet $10 on a roulette wheel or the slot machine even though the odds are better than 50% that a loss will occur?

What about buying lottery tickets? Are those wise decisions according to logical assessments?

On the other hand, how willing are you to take social risks, like going up to an attractive member of the opposite sex and saying hello?

The risk is almost exactly zero, but the potential payoff is huge. Yet not many people will take this perceived risk even though this is a nearly perfect situation: very low risk and very high reward potential.

Are you assessing your life choices wisely? Our actions are largely determined by where we choose to focus our attention. If you emphasize the positive aspects of something and minimize the downside, you’re likely to take that action. If you have the opposite focus, you’re unlikely to do it.

So what’s the right way to make a decision?

Consider the Positives

Are you considering all the ways the risk could pay off? In the example above, you could make a new friendship.

You might get a new career out of it. You might meet your spouse or a new golfing buddy. Think about all the potential benefits of taking the risk you have in mind. Make a mental list.

Some people try to minimize the upside as an excuse not to move forward.

Be honest with yourself. Avoid giving in to anxiety and making light of the potential rewards. And remember, People who are guided by fear tend to have smaller, less satisfying lives.

Don’t Forget the Other Side

Are you maximizing or minimizing the downside of your decision? Are you focused on the fact that you might be embarrassed or rejected? Or do you tell yourself that it’s no big deal and that at the very least they’ll probably be flattered?

One approach will get you where you want to go. The other will likely keep you where you are–so, in a normal, relatively safe situation, try adjusting your perspective to the most positive possible outcomes.

Read carefully, friends: maximizing the imagined risk is a sure way to stay stuck.

Minimizing the risk will make it much easier to move forward. If you’re 100 percent honest with yourself, you’ll see that you probably have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Letting Go of Ego

What if you were completely free of any concern for what anyone thought about you?

Really consider this for a moment. What would you do that you don’t do now? How would your life change? Imagine the freedom you would have to move through the world according to your deepest needs and desires.

If you can learn to laugh at yourself and not take these types of things too seriously, you’ll be much better off.

You can either laugh now and smile when you get older, or you can kick yourself when you get older because you squandered so many opportunities. Be brave, be true to yourself and go out there and take some (calculated) risks! You deserve to be happy, successful and fulfilled. Here’s just one more way you can get there.

So the next time you’re faced with a decision that involves your ego, think about the real risk involved rather than an imagined risk. The average person’s aversion to embarrassing himself is a huge handicap to reaping all the great things that life has to offer.

Do your best to accurately assess risk and then take the action that makes sense. This gets easier every time. Before you know it, your friends will say you’re the bravest person they know.

How do you handle decisions? Share your thoughts in the comments section, below!


  • Angela Atkinson

    Angela Atkinson is a certified trauma counselor and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery, and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships since 2006, she has a popular narcissistic abuse recovery YouTube channel. Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own. Atkinson offers trauma-informed narcissistic abuse recovery coaching and has certifications in trauma counseling, life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation, and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves. Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse here at and at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online.

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