What is a "Risk?"

June 2012. Originally copyrighted and posted in "Type for Life" by the Center for the Applications of Psychological Type, Gainesville, FL. Used with permission.

This appeared in my in-box recently from a friend, Lisa, who is an ENFP. Her partner, Jared, has yet to be typed, but probably has some opposite preferences given this description.

"Jared and I, on considering our morning commute today:

"Jared (who consulted the weather report online): There are thunderstorms in the forecast, and an x% chance of rain. You might want to consider taking the bus to work instead of riding your bike. (Luckily he knows better than to offer his opinion explicitly about what I should do.)

"Me (looking out the window): It isn't raining now. I'll bet I could make it.

"As I leave the house in my biking gear, I notice that Jared has taken our son to daycare in the car, instead of walking with the stroller like he enjoys most.

"I was thinking about all this on my ride in, and noticing how the threat of rain actually makes my bike commute more interesting and exciting to me, and how that makes it worth the risk of possibly getting wet (and if I'm very wet, possibly feeling cold and uncomfortable until I can get in to work and change… assuming I have a change of clothes with me, which I don't always have…)

"I hadn't realized before taking the MBTI how I kind of like to push things sometimes. I knew that I thought all of Jared's precautions and planning and preparation were usually unnecessary and only slowed things down; but I didn't realize that a part of me really prefers to do things by the seat of my pants."

So for Lisa, the risk of getting wet is actually not a risk, but a challenge and a mystery and fun — it makes life more interesting and exciting. For Jared, it is a risk not worth taking, and it would make life more of a hassle.

Oh by the way, this particular morning, Lisa did not get wet on her bike commute. Some of you probably were interested in that outcome, others of you thought it immaterial!

NPs often jump at possibilities in front of them and take risks more readily than any other types. I'm defining a risk as the possibility that some type of loss will occur. I have heard many examples of NPs suddenly deciding to quit their jobs and move abroad when an exciting possibility caught their fancy. They figure any obstacles they encounter will be something they can handle and actually make the move more fun. They might not even consider this a risk! It's not a loss, but a gain!

Their opposites, the SJs, usually carefully gather data and will take risks only after careful consideration. Planning is a way of preventing something "bad" from happening, and preventing a loss. And something "bad" is not considered an opportunity to rise to the occasion relying on one's wits and ability to adapt. If SJs factor in contingency plans to deal with the possibility of "bad" things happening, they could be handled adequately, but perhaps reluctantly. They are the least likely to take risks.

I recall an SJ once saying that she recently engaged in the same risk-taking as an NP in deciding to move. It was upon reflection that she realized she actually planted the seed in her mind a year earlier, had lined up contacts in the new area, and had found an acquaintance to stay with until she found her own place. It wasn't the same but nonetheless felt like a risk to her, but one that she navigated well!

So what makes a risk worth taking in your mind? Or is it not really a risk?!