I recently filled my car up with diesel fuel. That resulted in a number of problems for me since my car has a gasoline engine. I was rushing to pick my son up from pre-school and noticed the car needed gas. The car was parked at my wife’s workplace and we had agreed earlier that day that she would take care of it. Frankly, I was a little disappointed when I found the car still without gas. Disappointment was not going to fill the car with gas so I quickly got over myself and went to the gas station. I pulled up to the gas pump to find one pump attendant serving five vehicles. Realizing that I would have a long wait, I jumped out the car and proceeded to pump my own gas for the first time (I wish I could blame this on growing up fatherless but that’s not being accountable). Anyway, that is the story of how I ended ‘misfuelling’. Again, I was tempted to accept that if my wife had put gas in the car as we had decided, then none of this would have happened. Thankfully, I know better and so I avoided the blame game (something I refer to as ‘Adamizing’) altogether and focused on solutions.
The good thing is that diesel will not seriously harm a gasoline engine. It did cost me to drain the fuel tank and engine, flush the fuel lines, and change the spark plugs and filter. Why am I sharing this incident? This incident of diesel ‘misfuelling’ makes me think about our profession. I find that as a writer and counselor-in-training, I search for meaning and opportunities in almost everything. So much so that these days, it is becoming a norm for my wife to ask at the end of some of our conversations or experiences, “are you planning on writing about this?” My response is usually, “if you don’t mind.” I am a future Marriage and Family Therapist so I have to be prepared to preach what I practice and vice versa.
Have you ever taken the time to reflect on some of your decisions and wondered, “How could I have done or said that?” How about the unpleasant experience of misdiagnosing or wrongly assessing a client? Many of us have made decisions that did not produce good results, especially immediately after (such as in my case). We do try to forget them as quickly as possible and understandably so. I think often we make decisions believing we have made the best choice. This is one of the reasons why I am of the opinion that a decision in itself is neither good nor bad. It is the results of our decisions that can have negative or positive effects. Unfortunately, we tend to place more emphasis on the decision than on the results, which are actually more critical. In either case, but particularly if the decision yields negative consequences, we can identify something positive and useful from the experience. Like Erik Erickson, I believe that these experiences present a turning point and serve as sources of growth, strength, and commitment.
I have come to realize that there are some common factors associated with decisions that yield negative results. I have identified 5 of them below:
1.When a decision is made hastily, there are usually some (negative) consequences,
2.When too much time elapses before making a decision can produce the same effect as # 1
3.Making important decisions when you are sleep or food deprived,
4.Making important decisions when you are angry or experiencing some other kind of intense emotion (such as being ‘in-love’),
5.And making decisions independently when it should involve others
I would also like to share some of the lessons I have learned from this experience:
2.Pay attention (read the label/instruction – especially challenging for me),
3.Be patient (this should come naturally if you master # 1),
4.Seek advice (from someone who is likely to know more than you about a specific subject),
5.Be honest (with yourself and others about your contribution as well as your abilities),
6.Defer (sometimes it is better if someone else makes a particular decision.
7.Avoid ‘Adamizing’ (the urge to blame others)
8.Recover quickly (do not dwell too much on the decision or its results. Learn and live on),
9.Relax and have fun (I have proven, even without scientific facts, that humor can diffuse many potentially explosive situations
10.And practice (lessons 1 – 9 above to be prepared for the next experience which is guaranteed to occur
As a result of putting the wrong in the car, my family had to catch the bus to school and work while the car was being fixed. I have to admit that it was a very pleasant experience for all of us. We were very relaxed and got the chance to rediscover the beauty of Bermuda. My 4 year old son enjoyed the experience so much that he asked for us to take the bus to school the next morning which we did (even though the car was fixed). He told all his friends and teachers at school about his experience taking the big bus to school and now some of his friends want to take the bus themselves. I believe that many (if not all) of our decisions have both positive and negative effects. We can and should learn from both.
Pete Saunders is a graduate student at Capella University. He also writes a weekly blog and conducts a weekly video interview on manhood at razorsanddiapers.com