How To Properly Assess A Risk

Everyone faces risk. In fact, you face a plethora of risks day in and day out. You probably don’t even realize the risks you face.

There are risks that you can easily assess. Crossing the road, navigating your car, or going into work.

Tiny risks, yes. But risks none the less. And you take them on without a care.

Then there are higher consequence risks. The risks that makes you wonder. The risks you wonder how to properly assess them.

In his book, Take The Risk: Learning to Identify, Choose, and Live with Acceptable Risk, Ben Carson lays out the foundation for making wise choices when it comes to facing risk.


Carson uses a system called the BWA, or Best/Worst Assessment. The BWA is a system you can use to decide whether or not to take a risk.

The BWA helps you to analyze the risks you face. When you answer the four simple questions the BWA contains, you’ll be able to come to a decision quickly.

What questions do you ask yourself when you use the BWA? The 4 questions are:

What is the best thing that can happen if I do this?

What is the worst thing that can happen if I do this?

What is the best thing that can happen if I don’t do it?

What is the worst thing that can happen if I don’t do it?

Using The BWA

You’ve now got the questions that will help you make better decisions regarding risk. The questions are pretty simple, aren’t they?

Having the questions alone won’t do you any good. You must begin to use the BWA and answer the questions when you face a risky situation.

Risky situations may include:

Should I quit my job?

Should I marry the woman I’m dating?

Should I go back to school?

Should I fire Dan?

Each of these decisions can be tough. They require a lot of thought and consideration. Sometimes you might struggle to come to a conclusion.

This is where you can use Carson’s BWA method. Ask yourself the 4 BWA questions and your decision becomes a lot easier.

Take the question: Should I quit my job?

By asking yourself the questions in the BWA, you come out with a better sense of clarity. Lets use the BWA and see one possible scenario.

BWA Question: What is the best thing that can happen if I do this?

I find a job I really enjoy. The job uses my strengths more effectively than my previous job. I feel more fulfilled and happy with the new job. I’m able to lead with more authority and influence.

BWA Question: What is the worst thing that can happen if I do this?

I’m unable to find a job that suits my strengths. I may have to take a lower paying job or a job people may consider beneath me. My influence as a leader may diminish.

BWA Question: What is the best thing that can happen if I don’t do it?

I hold onto a job that doesn’t make me truly happy. My bills are still paid but my leadership abilities aren’t stretched or put to the best of use.

BWA Question: What is the worst thing that can happen if I don’t do it?

My unhappiness with my job shows. Eventually, this leads to me being fired. I have to find a new job and place to lead.

When you break down the question using the BWA method, you can assess the risk and bring clarity to your mind. Do you see how it worked with the question of whether or not I should quit my job?

I was able to see the pros of taking the risk or not taking the risk. The BWA also gave me clarity on what happens, good or bad, if I decide not to take the risk.

If you’re facing a tough decision, you can use the BWA method to properly assess the risk or decision. You can walk away from the risk knowing you made the best choice you can with the information you have.

Question: What risk are you facing that you can apply the BWA method to? Share the risk in the comment section below!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • RcMaFitness

    Excellent post Joe, very practical! I debated for months about taking a hunting course. It wasn’t my cup of tea, but it boiled down to spending more time with my husband (learning about something that matters to him). So I went for it, learned quite a bit, & now that it’s over, thank God for little favors! 🙂

    • Awesome. I’m sure that made a huge impact on your husband.

  • Honey Goode

    Risks are always present. Fear is an imagination but danger is real. It is a choice to take that risks and pursue what you think is right. I like how you incorporate the BWA method to carefully assess the possibilities that may occur as you take that brave step towards your aim. Good job!

  • A great tool for dealing with risk. I have heard Dr. Ben Carson speak but have not read this book. Now on the list!

  • Aha! Risk is a familiar shadow in our lives here in the Alaskan Mountains. I really -REALLY like BWA, Joe! Those 4 questions sum up exactly what our Trainees need to show us… in their actions and while we have our “round table” discussions each evening. Tell me: why you decided what you decided and tell me what else you thought of before you chose this as your best choice. Because really, my Father believes that it is much more important WHY someone did something… than the result. More important in revealing the ethics and standards this individual is living by, is going to live by and by which guests and clients lives will be in the balance of.

    • Awesome Amber-Lee. It sounds like you guys already implemented something along the lines of BWA.

  • My risk is launching my new coaching program. Not only is this a foray into the unknown (at least for me), but I still have lingering questions from when I tried to put in place a formal launch for my first book. It affects me in that the launch did not go as planned, mostly due to factors beyond my control. My publisher is in the US, I am in far off Kenya. Shipping, new taxes, cash flow, you name it…

    Q: What is the best thing that can happen if I do this?
    A: I have leaned from that experience and will bring in my friends and supporters for a ‘house-warming’ before I go out for the big party. I think there’s something magical that comes with that. My fear before was that I may have had to go back to the drawing board if the product wasn’t that great. Now I know better

    Q: What is the worst thing that can happen if I do this?
    A: I will not be able to live my dream, respond to my calling and become who I was created to be.

    Q: What is the best thing that can happen if I don’t do it?
    A: I will fulfill my goal of ‘Helping Build Authentic Leaders’ and grow myself at the same time.

    Q: What is the worst thing that can happen if I don’t do it?
    A: I am frustrated when my dream dies and I essentially become a phoney.

    • According to this BWA, what do you think you should do?

      • I should start with the minimum viable product and stop worrying about turning out a ‘perfect’ product (ouch, that was painful to confess coming from an all-ducks-in-a-row perfectionist). Now that it’s out, I feel much better. Thanks the for prodding Joe 🙂

        • Then get going, my friend. (-:

          • I’ve tagged you… You’re now ‘it’. Watch your mailbox, in a few days, becoming vulnerable begins 🙂

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  • CheryGegelman

    I’ve just finished reading another one of his books Joseph and pondered on those same questions! Great post!

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