One way to think about making a decision is in terms of its risk factors.  A risk factor is any action or condition that increases the likelihood of injury, disease, or any other negative outcome.  There are three ways you can usually identify and evaluate a risk factor.  You need to consider both short and long term consequences of your decision.  You must also decide whether you can control the risk factor of your chosen path.  Finally, make sure to analyze the possible benefits and risks of a decision you have chosen.

Short- and Long-term Consequences:  Some unthoughtful behaviors can have an immediate and visible effect on your health.  You can take a shortcut through an unfamiliar yard within your neighborhood and end up with a nasty rash because of the poison ivy growing in their yard. You can decide to not put on a seat-belt and get severely injured in a car accident on the freeway.

However, there are some risky behaviors you make take and the results of your mistakes will not be instantly visible to neither you nor your doctors and physicians.  Suppose you eat Mc'Donalds all the time;a mainly fast-food diet, which is extremely high in fats, sugar, and salt.  People may tell you that your chosen diet increases your risk of getting heart disease and diabetes later in your life.  But you still think that you are very healthy as you are right now.   Why not wait until you become a little older to change your behavior?  First of all, it can be extremely difficult to change these habits that have existed side by side with your personality for years, and even if you do change your eating habits later in life, you may not be able to repair the damage the fast food ingredients have done to you body.

Risk Factors You Cannot Control:  A friend decides to invite you and your buddies to the beach.  You are worried because you have fair skin and will most likely get a sunburn or worse.  You can't control the color of your skin; you can't change it in an instant like a chameleon,  or the other risk factors that are part of your heredity and your current environment.  Nor do you have the ability to control all the risk factors within your environment which is currently the beach. However, you do have the power to put on sunscreen.

Risk Factors You Can Control:  So what risk factors can you actually control?  You can control risk factors that are connected or related with your own personal behavior.  For example, you can control your exposure to ultraviolet radiation in sunlight and tanning booths by buying a spray tan, which will reduce your risk of developing skin cancer because of the UV rays.  Or you can maintain close relationships with many other people such as friends and family members.  In this case, if one of your relationships are forced to end and you are down, you will still get a lot of support from your other friends you have kept in contact with.  The following are other examples on risk factors you can control in your life.

  • Your level of physical activity
  • Your intake of fat, sugar, or salt
  • Your use of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs
  • Your use of protective gear, such as seat belts
  • Your choice of friends

However, you may be able to control some of the risk factors present in your environment.  For example, you can join others in your community to find answers and solutions for problems such as air pollution or lack of open spaces within your city or county.

Analyzing Benefits and Risks:  If there was such a thing as a risk-free life, no one would die.  Therefore, there are always risks that are ever present in our lives.  Without being willing to take some risks by trying out new things, it would literally be impossible to grow intellectually and you would never learn anything.  So how can you make an accurate decision on which risks are worth taking?  You need to weigh the risks of an action against the possible benefits until you think the possible benefits potentially outweight the risks.