Traffic Lights, Choices and Consequences

Summary: “Think about the long-term consequences of your choices…before you make the choice.” 

Most traffic lights use a three-color system – red, yellow and green – in an attempt to control the flow of traffic through an intersection. Red, in this case, is the traffic light color that instructs moving vehicles to stop.

However, have you ever really thought about why most people stop at a red light? Does the color, in this case redness, make them stop? Does the light behind the red lens make them stop? How about the pole holding the traffic light, does it make drivers stop? It must not be any of these things; although all of these things are often present, the fact is, some drivers still do not stop.

So, in the end it is the driver’s choice to stop … or not. The red light is simply an external triggering event that prompts the driver to think about the consequences of stopping or not stopping and then make a choice. The red light has no inherent power or ability to stop anyone or anything.

Another factor that comes into play in this process of stopping people with a powerless red light has to do with the timing of the consequences. If you run a red light, the negative consequences can occur almost immediately. In other words, you might collide with a person going through the same intersection choosing to go on a green light.

I think several lessons are embedded in the “why stop at a red light” story. However, let’s focus on one aspect of this story – the timing of the consequences.

When the consequences are immediate, you are more likely to pay attention and factor them into your choice. For example, many people are fully aware of the almost certain negative consequences of smoking. However, it is most likely that they will not have to “pay the bill” for smoking in terms of the health consequences until some distant future date. So, they light up, have another cigarette, and don’t worry about it. What if every time they made a choice to smoke a cigarette, they knew it might be the tipping-point cigarette that would trigger cancer almost immediately? What if, like running a red light, they might immediately suffer significant negative consequences of smoking that particular cigarette?

Typically if someone asks you at the beginning of your day what you are going to do that day, you reply with a list of tasks, meetings and so forth and so on. Here’s another valid response: “Today I am going to make choices all day long.”

If you want to make better choices, personal or career, think about the consequences of each significant choice in terms of the red light analogy. What if the consequences of this choice occurred immediately? What if my choice caused a devastating car crash? Think about this when you choose what to eat, what to do with your time, what to do with your money, what to say to your spouse, children, coworkers and friends. And by the way…drive carefully!

Joyfully participate in life’s choices today…Chris

1 thought on “Traffic Lights, Choices and Consequences

  1. Reply
    Terri Murphy - December 13, 2017

    Excellent analogy. Right on! It does make you have to think

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