Better Life

What Would You Risk For A Better Life?

Many of us dream of a better life. Perhaps this dream involves being time affluent, having more money, pursuing a meaningful career or being free from health problems. But what would you be prepared to risk for this better life?

This was a question I recently contemplated in my article, LASIK Eye Surgery. Have You? Would You? LASIK Eye Surgery is a procedure that has the potential to dramatically improve a person’s life by freeing them from the need to wear glasses and contact lenses. But like all surgical procedures, LASIK poses inherent risks as there is no such thing as perfect surgery, a perfect surgeon, or even a perfect patient. Most of the replies to the article spoke glowingly of the procedure, but it is impossible to ignore comments such as this one by SP:

“My fiancé did the research and went to one of the best doctors in the USA for surgery. But it didn’t work. His vision is worse than it was before surgery, and now his eyes are very dry as well. So now he’s out the money from the surgery and follow-up visits, with a negative outcome. Beware, beware, beware!”

Understanding Risk

Each and every day we make choices that involve some degree of risk, in the sense that these choices could lead to negative and sometimes disastrous consequences. When we love, we risk not being loved in return. When we try, we risk failure. When we invest, we risk losing money. When we take the road less traveled, we risk being shunned by our friends and family. When we hope, we risk pain.

When it comes to LASIK, it is obvious that a patient is risking their eyesight. According to the Wikipedia, the incidence of LASIK surgery patients having unresolved complications six months after surgery is estimated to be between 3% and 6%.

I should point out, though, that the same page says, “it is important to take into account the individual risk potential of a patient and not just the average probability for all patients.” And this is true for all choices – different people will face different levels of risk when undertaking the same activity.

Managing Risk

One important way to manage risk is to mitigate (reduce) it. An excellent example of this can be seen in a recent article by Leo from Zen Habits. In this article, Leo shares how he has made the transition from being a full-time employee to that of a self-employed ProBlogger.

There are obviously risks involved in this type of career change, a fact that Leo acknowledges when we writes that it is “very very very scary.” But he has mitigated these risks by developing multiple streams of online income, paying off his debt and saving an emergency fund.

When it comes to an operation such as LASIK there are a number of ways to reduce risk, such as finding a surgeon with an excellent reputation and screening them with some tough questions. Even after mitigating risk, however, there still remains the potential for major complications. This was summed up in a comment left by Brandon in response to my original article:

“There’s a huge risk, if there is a problem, which is unlikely, you could lose your sight… Personally, the risk was worth it for me but if others don’t share those values then I completely understand.”

This is a good example how an individual can understand the risks, and accept the potentially disastrous consequences, of a particular course of action. I completely understand, though, if a person chooses to another method of risk management when it comes to LASIK: risk avoidance. After all, this is a person’s eyesight that we are talking about.

But is risk avoidance an appropriate strategy for managing many of the choices we face in life?

The Ultimate Risk

“The dangers of life are infinite, and among them is safety.” -Goethe

What is the ultimate risk? In my opinion, the ultimate risk is living your life in such a way that when you when you come to lie on your deathbed you will have cause for regret. It is therefore important to understand that there is great risk attached to inaction and safety. By playing things safe – for example by staying in a high paying but unsatisfying career – you are actually risking the pain of regret later in life.

This does not mean, though, that you should throw caution to the wind by not properly assessing your own individual circumstances and attitudes towards risk. As this article has made clear, some risky choices can lead to disastrous consequences. But we should always remember that when we risk ourselves, our time, and our careers in the pursuit of a better life, we can accomplish and attain things we never imagined.

What would you risk for a better life? Or, what have you risked and what happened?

Peter writes about how to enjoy life at The Change Blog. If you enjoyed this article, you may wish to download his free e-book, A Year of Change.