Defining Your Risk Taking Style

Although people are rarely consistent in their decision-making styles, most of us can detect some regularity in the way we make important decisions. Think of the important life decisions you have made (e.g., marriage, divorce, major moves, career changes), and then answer the following questions. You may not answer some with complete confidence, but give the answers that come closest to what you believe. This is not a test, it is just a device to help you understand your own decision-making behavior. For each dimension, choose the one response out of three that best describes how you usually respond in making a big decision.

I. Attitude toward change
1. I prefer security to novelty.
2. I value security and novelty about equally.
3. I prefer novelty to security.

II. Search strategy
1. I make a quick overall survey of possibilities hoping that something will hit me.
2. I keep producing and then going over my possible choices.
3. I think of a number of alternatives but stop after a reasonable search.

III. Attention to feelings
1. I decide among alternatives not only by reasoning but by taking my feelings into account.
2. I made major decisions almost exclusively on the basis of my feelings.
3. I mistrust my feelings as a basis for a major decision; I try to rely on reason almost entirely.

IV. Decision rule
1. I believe there is one right decision, and it is my job to dig it out.
2. I believe there is no one right decision, I just need to find one that is good enough.
3. I believe in choosing the first decision that really grabs me.

V. Sense of consequence
1. I don’t try to predict the consequences of my decision because I expect things will work out okay.
2. I do think about consequences, tending to focus on the bad things that might happen.
3. I try to think of good and bad consequences of my decision.

VI. Pre-decision emotions
1. In thinking about taking a risky step, I feel mostly anxiety.
2. In thinking about taking a risky step, I feel a mixture of anxiety and excitement.
3. In thinking about taking a risky step, I feel mostly excitement.

VII. Time expended in decision-making process
1. I usually make decisions—even big ones—quickly.
2. I usually take a fairly long time to make big decisions.
3. I usually take a very long time to make big decisions.

VIII. Attitude toward new information
1. I will consider new information even after I’ve arrived at a probable decision.
2. I’m not interested in getting new information after I’ve made a probable decision.
3. I feel compelled either to seek out new information or to shut it out after I’ve made a probable decision.

IX. Post-decision strategy
1. Once I’ve made a decision, I usually don’t think about it before launching into action.
2. Once I’ve made a decision, I often experience serious doubts and may change my mind.
3. Once I’ve made a decision, I usually rally behind it after rechecking.

X. Evaluating the outcome of a risky decision
1. After I have acted on the decision, I tend to worry or regret that I didn’t do something else.
2. After I have acted on the decision, I tend to put it out of my mind.
3. After I have acted on the decision, I tend to think about what I have learned from it.

Tally the number of “A” responses, “B” responses, and “C” responses, using the following guide:

I. 1. A 2. B 3. C
II. 1. C 2. A 3. B
III. 1. B 2. C 3. A
IV. 1. A 2. B 3. C
V. 1. C 2. A 3. B
VI. 1. A 2. B 3. C
VII. 1. C 2. B 3. A
VIII. 1. B 2. C 3. A
IX. 1. C 2. A 3. B
X. 1. A 2. C 3. B

Most people evidence a mixture of styles. The average number of A responses is 6.7. The average number of B responses is 2.3. The average number of C responses is 1.0. The goal is to be balanced.

Style A: The anxious risk-taker makes big decisions with great effort, is afraid of making mistakes, takes lots of time, and tends to ruminate and worry about the outcome.

Style B: The balanced risk-taker makes big decisions fairly slowly, is more concerned with reasonably good outcomes than with fear of failure or the need to make a good decision, and tends to plan and to review, but without worrying too much.

Style C: The careless risk-taker makes big decisions quickly with little experience of mixed feelings, may feel “inappropriately optimistic,” and spends little time in introspection or evaluation.

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