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Habits of Mind: Taking responsible risks

Posted March 16, 2016

“The only man who never makes mistakes is the man who never does anything.” - Eleanor Roosevelt

Illustration of the Habit of Mind taking responsible risks Responsible risk takers take educated risks, drawing on past knowledge, having a well-trained sense of what is appropriate and thinking about consequences.However, some students seem reluctant to take risks – instead they hold back from games, new learning and new friendships because their fear of failure is far greater than their desire for venture or adventure. By holding back from taking risks, students miss opportunities. They listen to the mental voice that says, "If you don't try it, you won't be wrong," or "If you try it and you are wrong, you will look silly." Fear causes them to tune out the other voice that might say, "If you don't try it, you will never know." These students are more interested in knowing their answer is correct than in being challenged by the process of finding the answer. 

We hope that our students will learn how to take intellectual as well as responsible physical risks, and we are providing a supportive environment for encouraging safe and appropriate risk taking. 

Taking responsible risks:

  • Looks like: a challenge, giving it a go, volunteering, trying a new activity or approach and learning new things.
  • Sounds like: “Can I do it?,” “Am I prepared?,” “I’ll try” and “I can do this because…”
  • Feels like: rewarding, satisfying, exciting and scary.

Common language for this habit includes: do your thing, courageous, venture, free-spirited, unconventional, daring, new pathways and just do it. 

Click to find books that emphasize taking responsible risks.

View a video illustrating this habit.