I’m calling this idea of mine Imagined versus Actual Potentialities, mostly because I’m lazy and don’t feel like spending any more time on the name.
Here’s the concept. Most people make horrible decisions. There are many reasons for this, but I think a lot of times people imagine they are going to have some sort of problem if they choose Path A, so they choose Path B. What they don’t think about are the probabilities of A happening versus B happening, and the realistic consequences of either. They avoid what, in reality, is an unlikely and small problem, only to find themselves with the more likely and bigger problem.
Confused? OK, here’s the example that got me thinking down this road originally. I’m in my truck and stopped at a light in the rightmost lane. A car comes up behind me. The driver needs to turn right after the light immediately on the other side of the intersection. The driver believes that I will go slower than he (let’s assume the driver is male) would prefer when the light turns green. This belief stems from the fact that I am in a big truck, and experience says big trucks are slow out of the gate. And for some bizarre reason, this potential event would annoy the piss out of our fellow driver.
Thus, the driver faces a potential, but extremely inconsequential, so-called issue if he stays put. We’ll call staying put Path A.
Now what does this driver decide to do? Why, he pulls up next to me on my left, of course. The plan is that when the light turns green he will pass me, get into my lane ahead of me, and make that turn before I catch up. We’ll call this brilliant little action Path B.
In walks reality. And the reality is that I drive a Hemi and possess a lead foot. So when the light turns green, I am not the slow vehicle the driver imagined. He now has a larger problem than he would’ve had had he chose Path A. He must either speed up greatly to pass me, or squeeze between me and the vehicle that has since arrived behind me. So he is either going to piss me off, or the people behind me, or cause an accident. Or, he’ll just have to miss his turn and circle the block or something.
And for what? Because he may have been ever so slightly inconvenienced by the potential of me being slow to accelerate? Madness!
I believe this stems from a lack of critical thinking. But it could be the result of selfishness, general indifference, or a genetic brain defect.
I wonder how many decisions are made this same way. “You know, it will be really hard to quit smoking, and I will be severely inconvenienced; so I’m not going to try.” Now you have an even bigger problem, namely lung cancer. Or “the kids at school give me a hard time, so I’m just not going to go.” The result: no education, no chance of getting a decent job and supporting yourself, and living with mom and dad for another few decades–or worse, being homeless.
I could work out a formula for this and test it against a variety of life decisions; then maybe I could write a book about it. It might even be publishable.
But that sounds like a lot of work, so I think I’ll just complete this post now and make myself a drink.