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Red Light, Green Light

Recently, I read an article that talked about the green light as a sort of universal go signal for many types of actions, beginning of course with driving through intersections. The author went on to qualify that go signal by giving the example of a pedestrian in the intersection being a reason why one would not go until the intersection was clear. That surprised me since my experience as a pedestrian walking a couple of thousand miles a year is that red lights do not make drivers stop for pedestrians and I could imagine no situation in which a driver would stop on green unless some much larger object was blocking their way. And even then….

However, leaving aside the faulty driving analogy, the author had a good point about that green light. Though it indicates one may proceed, there may be other signals, data, activity or information that would make one hesitate to proceed or even to change course. That is why, when we are making decisions, we should look beyond the first “go” indicator to see if there are other indicators that either support or contradict that action.

What is also interesting is that the converse of the rule is not at all true. Though green might not mean go when other factors are considered, red almost certainly means stop, and really stop. Though other factors may support a go decision, they need to be present and processed before such a decision is made. Once again, the pedestrian analogy will generally not work here, either, since the driver tends to consider a red as an advisory slow down signal unless a collision with something larger is imminent.

The bottom line is that when we make real life decisions about proceeding with something, it generally is not as simple as obeying a single stop or go signal. We should remember to take a deeper look at things and evaluate the other indicators before acting. There is some real basic good sense about the phrase “act in haste, repent in leisure.”

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