Quote of the week - Jan 04 2013

" The monsters don’t quite care if you believe in them or not, they would gobble you up just the same."
- Grace

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The wrong fork in the road...

How much of a mistake is in a wrong decision and how much of a wrong decision is in a mistake?
Today something bad happened, and it was my fault, and it was other people's fault as well, and maybe, in the end, it was nobody's fault...
  Please, bear with me for a while...

I guess when I think of decision making and bad consequences, I often think of the simpler ones, the less harmful ones.
Every morning, I get up and as I'm leaving the apartment, I see my bus drive past, and then I think: "Well, if I hadn't gone back to check whether or not I forgot to turn off the lights, I would've caught that bus."
 But then another bus comes along in about 30 minutes, and it's not the end of the world. At most, I'm a few minutes late getting where I need to be.
But what if the consequences aren't as simple? What if they're not as harmless? In this very simple example, is going back to check the lights a mistake or a bad decision, and is the fact that I hadn't left anything on irrelevant? If the lights had been on, going back would've been a good decision, wouldn't it?
So the outcome does influence how we see our decisions. Think about it, all our "should've, could've, would've"s are based on what we know came later... At least mine are. In retrospect, everything is so much clearer, isn't it?

And after thinking about the daily morning doubts, I always wind up going back to the first time I got mugged. I was at a bus stop and two identical buses came by. One was standing room only, so to speak, and the other still had some vacant seats. Of course I took the second bus. Along the way the two buses got separated because the first one had to keep stopping so people could get off. When it got to my stop, I was the only one to get out, and the streets were pretty empty even though it wasn't late in the day. By bad luck, I ran into the guys who wound up shoving a gun in my face as soon as I turned onto my street. The thing is, if I'd taken the other bus, I would have gotten there after they'd ridden past, and we wouldn't have run into each other... So I always think about that moment when I chose that second bus instead of the first (don't get me wrong, I'll still choose an empty bus instead of a sardine truck any day). If it hadn't been for what happened later, would I ever even think of getting on that bus as a bad decision? Was it even a mistake?

  And what is a mistake?

 Let's go with another overly simplified everyday example that mirrors what happened today in a very unrealistic, twisted way:
Say that I helped a friend move her car away from a wall they were painting so it wouldn't get sprayed with paint. (doesn't every bad thing start with good intentions?)
And say I forgot to roll up the window. (enter the mistake)
Other people came along and saw that the window hadn't been rolled up, looked at the sky and thought "It's okay, it doesn't look like it's gonna rain."
They didn't even bother to tell me. And that was that, and then it rained.
Was it my job to roll the window up? Yes. But when other people overlooked the mistake, does that transform the mistake into a bad decision? And is it only a bad decision because it did rain? Or is the rain irrelevant to what should have been done?
And now I feel guilty and upset because of my mistake, and angry that no one called me on it.

So are mistakes and bad decisions the same thing? Or is the lack of conscious reasoning that which defines a mistake? And does that same lack of reasoning absolve us of our errors or does it just make it harder for us to accept them?

Sorry, it was a long, horrible day...

E "amanhã há de ser outro dia..." :)

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