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7 Reasons to Take More Risks the Older You Get

Despite some popular beliefs, you can take more chances as you age.

Key points

  • Society may say that risk-taking is for younger folks, that you need to be more careful when you get older.
  • But many opinions can be self-serving, since others can view younger folk as more gullible, less threatening. 
  • When you've seen more and done more in life, you may be in a better position to take more chances.
  • Don't accept any box that society and others may place around you simply because of your age.
Matthias Clamer/Getty
When you get older, your perspectives can change quite dramatically.
Source: Matthias Clamer/Getty

OK, maybe these days you can't stomach some of the risks that you took in your younger years, such as eating that piece of pizza that you found on your couch or doing anything involving a beer bong. But that doesn't necessarily mean that you should be less risk-taking overall the older you get.

In fact, quite the opposite. When you've seen more and done more in life, you may be in a better position to take more chances and go after what you really want. Here are seven reasons why:

1. You may have more of a financial cushion when you are older.

When you are in your 20s, your financial cushion may look flimsy. In fact, if you were anything like me, you might have chosen a career path in college aiming to achieve some degree of financial security that you didn't have as a child. You might not have had the luxury of "doing what you enjoy" or "following your passions." Instead, your motivation may have been more like "doing whatever you can to avoid ending up in a dumpster" or "following something that allows you to eat." Since you can't quite choose the family that you are born or adopted into, maybe you've had to wait until you had some type of financial safety net before finally doing what your heart has been telling you to do.

2. You know yourself better.

When you were in college, you probably didn't know a whole lot. In fact, you may not have even known how little you knew about many things, including yourself. If you were anything like me, you probably had no real understanding of your own true strengths and interests. As a result, you may not have known what you were willing to take risks for and thus taken the default do-whatever-everyone-else-is-trying-to-do path. However, a magical thing can happen when you finally know yourself: You can know that you have to follow your own heart

3. You have more skills, expertise, and experience.

With age, like Gouda cheese, you can get better at everything. In turn, this gives more wherewithal to take more chances.

4. Things can seem less scary.

Remember in high school when it was petrifying to ask someone to the prom or to eat alone in the cafeteria, probably because you feared rejection and judgment? Heck, I remember asking someone "safe" to my junior prom only to see her dance with her crush there. Well, after being rejected by many people for many things over the years, I can now more effectively reject the notion of giving a bleep.

5. You understand the finiteness of time.

The older you get the more you realize how time flies and how tomorrow is never guaranteed.
Source: STILLFX/Getty

When you are in your teens and early adulthood, time can seem a bit endless. You can believe that there is always tomorrow to do something that you really want to do. But over time, seeing others get injured, become sick, and even pass away makes you realize more and more that tomorrow is never guaranteed. Time really starts flying by as you see many people not being able to fulfill their plans and dreams. All of this can highlight the real risks of not taking risks in life: the risk of should-ing all over yourself when you finally do run out of time.

6. You care more.

Experiencing the ups and downs of life can give you more empathy for others and more passion to make positive changes in the world. When you finally care for something or someone beyond or bigger than yourself, that's when many risks seem worth taking.

7. You care less.

At some point in life, you no longer feel that you have to maintain a certain position, status, or image to impress others. You begin to understand how meaningless all of the superficial trapping and appearances actually are and thus are more willing to risk losing them. It can become more apparent how fickle many people can be and how spending your life trying to impress them is a genuine waste of time. Ultimately, the people who really matter in your life are your true friends, who should remain in your camp regardless of what happens, and yourself, who presumably won't bail on yourself.

A big part of maturing is recognizing that what society often says doesn't really matter. Society can try to tell you what you should be and feel when you get older. Silicon Valley investors can try to tell you that younger people make better entrepreneurs even though that's not necessarily the case. Hollywood can tell you that they'd rather take chances on a younger actor even though many studio heads are not exactly spring chickens themselves. Companies can make it seem like younger folks have more upside even though no amount of training can replace experience. But such opinions can be self-serving, since people in power can view younger folks as more gullible and less threatening.

In the end, don't accept any box that society and others may place around you simply because of your age or any other demographic such as your sex, gender, race/ethnicity, or background. You yourself should decide what type of risk you are willing to stomach and what chances are worth taking. But all along remember that there is risk in everything, including not taking enough risks in your life.

More from Bruce Y. Lee M.D., M.B.A.
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