The Inseparable Bond Between Risk, Life & Flow

Last week, I learned more about the profound connection between risk and life and the thread that runs through the very fabric of our existence.

I had the privilege to spend 90 minutes talking with Geoff Trickey, a charted psychologist who it’s an honour to call my friend. We talked about risk, human psychology and peak performance.

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Geoff is the creator of Risk Type Compass. The design of the Risk Type Compass is striking in terms of (a) its psychological reasoning and (b) its technical test development perspective. It offers an innovative conceptualisation of personality related to risk perception, threat reaction, and propensity for risk-taking.

This interests me because flow and peak performance depend on weighing the risks involved.

Risk transcends boundaries and applies universally, from the tiniest single-cell organisms to the complex world of human beings. Risk is an intrinsic element of the journey to survival and living your life in flow.

Risk at the Cellular Level

Risk is a constant companion even at the most fundamental level of life, the single-cell organism. These microscopic entities must navigate their surroundings, making choices that impact their survival. Every movement and every interaction with the environment is a calculated risk. Inaction, too, carries its own risk as it might lead to missed opportunities for sustenance or safety.

The Human Experience and Risk

Zooming in on the human experience, we find that risk is an ever-present force, a defining element of our journey. Whether we realise it or not, every choice we make involves risk. From simple decisions like crossing the street to profound life choices, risk is our constant companion.

Inaction as a Form of Risk

It’s essential to recognise that even inaction is a form of risk. When we hesitate, procrastinate, or avoid making decisions, we expose ourselves to the dangers of missed opportunities or negative consequences. The choice to do nothing is, in itself, a calculated risk.

Embracing Risk as a Catalyst for Growth

Risk is not a shadow to be feared but a companion to be embraced. It is the driving force behind our growth, exploration, and discovery. Just as a surfer rides the crest of a wave, a mountaineer scales a towering peak, or a single-cell organism navigates its environment, we, too, confront our fears, venture into the unknown, and navigate the intricate maze of life.

The Dance of Risk and Mortality

At its core, risk is intimately connected to the concept of mortality. The understanding that our time is finite serves as a poignant reminder of the impermanence of life. In the grand tapestry of existence, every individual and every living entity faces the ultimate risk of ceasing to exist. It’s a universal truth that unites us all in the shared human experience.

Risk is not merely an abstract concept but an inseparable part of life. It’s a force that propels us forward, challenges us to make choices, and defines our journey. Whether single-cell organisms navigating our surroundings or complex beings charting our course through life, risk is our constant companion, a testament to our vitality and an essential element of the human experience. Embracing risk becomes a celebration of life, acknowledging our ability to confront the unknown, manage the mist, and journey towards our peak performance.

The Catalyst for Flow: Embracing Risk

Flow, often described as a state of optimal experience, is characterized by deep concentration, heightened focus, and a sense of effortless mastery. What the Taoist may have described as Wu Wei. It’s that feeling when you’re so absorbed in an activity that time seems to stand still, and you perform at your best. Interestingly, the road to flow is paved with risk.

Balancing Challenge and Skill: The Flow Channel

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who coined the concept of flow, posited that achieving this state requires a delicate balance between challenge and skill. In other words, to experience flow, you need to engage in tasks that are neither easy (which can lead to boredom) nor too difficult (which can result in anxiety).

Risk as the Key Ingredient

Risk plays a pivotal role in finding this balance. Activities with an element of risk naturally elevate the challenge level. When taking risks, whether in sports, work, or personal pursuits, you’re pushing your boundaries and venturing into the unknown. This inherently increases the challenge aspect of the equation.

The Flow Channel and Risk-Taking.

Imagine a spectrum, often referred to as the “flow channel,” with low challenge on one end and high skill on the other. To enter the flow state, you must navigate within this channel. Risk is like a current that propels you towards the challenging end of the spectrum. The surge nudges you out of your comfort zone and encourages you to operate at the edge of your abilities.

Embracing Risk in Sports and Creativity

In sports, athletes who take calculated risks, such as attempting a challenging move or pushing their physical limits, often find themselves in a flow state. Similarly, in creative endeavours, artists, writers, and musicians who dare to experiment with new ideas or techniques are more likely to experience moments of deep creative flow.

Managing Risk for Flow

It’s important to note that managing that risk is vital to achieving flow through risk. While recklessness can lead to stress and anxiety, calculated risk-taking involves a thoughtful assessment of potential consequences and developing skills to navigate them. This measured approach enhances the likelihood of entering a flow state.

Flow as a Peak Performance State

Flow isn’t just a pleasant state of mind; it’s also associated with peak performance. Your cognitive abilities, creativity, and problem-solving skills are heightened when you’re in flow. Your productivity soars, and you’re more likely to achieve your goals.


Risk is not the enemy but a potent catalyst in the quest for flow. It pushes you out of your comfort zone, ignites your sense of challenge, and propels you into the flow channel. When you embrace risk as a calculated and thoughtful endeavour, you open the door to peak performance and the exhilarating flow experience. In managing the uncertainty that accompanies risk, you may find yourself reaching new heights of achievement and fulfilment.