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Risk Intelligence
18 November 2023

The Difference Between Risk & Harm

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Nail the basics when it comes to Risk. There is a big difference between it and harm, and you need to be able to tell the difference!


What is the point of taking risks? And why do we do it? The more we can understand this, the more that we’ll be able to understand just how beneficial it is for us, and how it’s better to lean into risk, than to avoid it.

  • Risk has certain qualities like allowing for planning and reflection which make it stand out,
  • Harm occurs when we engage in disorderly behaviour.
  • Understanding the difference is critical to raising healthy young people!

What Is Risk?

Risk has certain qualities which allow us to decide in the moment, and in advance, how we should approach a situation. Risk is uncertainty, but that doesn’t mean it precludes preparation, planning or improvement

  • Risk is Uncertain,
  • Risk has Benefits vs Undesirables but navigation is possible,
  • It is perception challenging and can be reflected on,
  • Uncertainty – One of the defining characteristics is that taking a risk involves uncertainty. This uncertainty can be navigated or mitigated, and depending on the time available to us we can often take something which is risky, and render it a relative certainty!
  • Benefits vs Undesirable – When we face a risk, there has to be something worthwhile on the other side. From a new skill to an improved outlook, a new friend or a lesson learned, there must be a reason for risk! Just the same, on the other hand there has to be the possibility of a negative outcome, a bump, scrape or bruised ego.
  • Negotiation Possible – When we face a risk, there should be a light at the end of the tunnel. If there’s no possible way we can see, the risk is likely out of our ability to manage for now.
  • Perception Challenging – When we undertake a risk, it must challenge how we view either ourselves or the world. Learning is a process of understanding how little you know and then doing something about it.
  • Reflection Possible – Another aspect of risk, is our ability to reflect upon it once it has passed. Understanding why it plays out the way that it does, and how we might improve for next time, is a critical part of growth

What Is Harm?

Harm is what we want to avoid. The inherently dangerous and disorderly, the hurtful or thoughtless. When kids engage in harmful behaviour, we can often assume that there’s a disorderly thought or behaviour pattern involved.

  • Harm is inherently harmful,
  • It is neutral or undesirable and engaging with it is disorderly,
  • It harms our perceptions of the world and rarely allows reflection,
  • Inherently Harmful – Some behaviours are harmful by default. Either by hurting ourselves or others in an unavoidable way, such as driving dangerously or bullying others.
  • Neutral or Undesirable – Even if the person engaging in the behaviour doesn’t intend harm, it’s likely they’re not motivated by growth either. Simply emerging unscathed is a goal for some while getting the attention that such behaviour garners.
  • Disorderly – When quizzed about intentions for the behaviour it’s often that there’s very little reason or rhyme to it and this is a hallmark of harmful behaviour.
  • Perception Harming – When bad things happen and we can’t understand why, it’s more likely that we prescribe the fault to ourselves as something inherently wrong with us or the situation.
  • No Reflection – When things are dangerous and it’s life or limb at risk, there’s often little time to build a strong picture of what’s occurring. This also means that afterwards there’s no chance that there will be an understanding of what went wrong!


Make sure to be able to identify when your Risky Kid is taking risks, or being dangerous! There are times when you’ll need to intervene, but Risk is not only healthy, but critical.

Richard Williams

Richard Williams

Risky Kids Founder, Director of Programming

Richard Williams is a fitness industry consultant, gym owner, business coach and professional stunt actor with more than a decade of experience in the health and fitness industry. With an education in psychology and criminology, Richard blended life experience as a fitness industry consultant with Spartan Race, gym owner, elite-obstacle racer, ultra-runner and professional stunt actor to create the Risky Kids program.

Richard has a passion for enacting meaningful social change through all avenues of health and wellbeing and believes that obstacles are the way. Some of Richard’s key achievements include:

  • Key consultant/coordinator Spartan Race/Tough Mudder/Extreme Endurance
  • OCR World Championship Finalist –  Team & Solo (2015)
  • OCR World Championship Silver Medallist – Team Endurance (2018)
  • Professional film and television stunt performer for 15 years

Considered one of Australia’s foremost experts in the fields of fitness, wellbeing and behavioural science, Richard is frequently in demand as a guest speaker for relevant government and non-
government bodies and organisations. Speaking engagements centred on the success of the Risky Kids program, philosophy and approach have included:

  • Expert speaker/panellist Sports & Camp; Recreation Victoria and Outdoors Victoria forums
  • Closing expert speaker at the Australian Camps Association National Conference
  • Expert speaker at the National Fitness Expo, FILEX