Lots of people live their lives trying to avoid risk. The word ‘risk’ itself sounds negative. It implies the fact that something bad could happen. Not everyone avoids risk though. In fact, some people go out and look for risk around every corner. These are the types of people who go skydiving or bungee jumping on the weekends. For them, life is just plain boring if there isn’t some sort of risk involved. A common term for people like this is adrenaline junkies.
What causes these people to want to take risks though? A lot of these risks seem like they give no benefit at all. For example, skydiving is risky, costs money and offers little in return. So what is it that causes people to continue taking risks? One word: dopamine.
Scientists are starting to understand the behavior of risk takers, and dopamine is the driving force. Dopamine is a natural feel-good chemical in the brain. When we finish a good meal or find $20 on the ground, a dopamine release occurs. When people use stimulating drugs like cocaine or methamphetamine, dopamine is also released. Often times drug users are far more addicted to the dopamine release than they are to the drugs themselves.
Taking risks also triggers the dopamine receptors in the brain. When we do something that has potential downsides, but walk away from it just fine, our brain fills with dopamine. It’s no wonder why some people take so many risks. It’s the brain’s natural way of getting high on itself, no drugs required.
For some people, actual risk is too much, but they still want to experience some perceived risk. A company in Detroit called Extreme Kidnapping provides risk in a controlled environment. For $500, a team of people will kidnap you and take you hostage. They will have guns, and it is a scary, adrenaline-boosting experience. The only difference between this and a real kidnapping is there’s no real risk. It still feels risky and causes the same dopamine response. You just don’t have any of the risks you might have in an authentic kidnapping.
You might not realize it, but many see speaking in English as risky. They fear the risk of making mistakes or looking foolish. Just like the Extreme Kidnapping though, there’s no real danger involved in making mistakes. What about you? Do you think making mistakes in English is risky or embarrassing? This is important, because fear of failure will stop you from becoming a more fluent English speaker. How can you reframe the way you think and feel when speaking English?