A few years ago I had an interesting experience which demonstrates how powerful our subconscious decision making is. Ever since our first child was born, I’ve developed a heightened awareness about eliminating hazards around the house, especially about keeping sharp and hot objects well out of reach.
I always pay particular attention to making sure that glasses and cups are well away from the edges of tables to minimize the chance of them spilling (everyone with kids knows that this is only partly a safety measure, but also serves to keep the floor clean!). One morning, however, after making my coffee, I noticed that the coffee had spilled a little, getting the bottom of the cup wet. There was a napkin right at the edge of the kitchen table, and suddenly, in my subconscious, my desire not to make a mess on the table completely pushed my desire to minimize accidents out of the picture. As Murphy would have it, my 2 year old daughter happened to walk by just then and happened to be curious about what was in the coffee cup, and spilled the fresh hot coffee all over her arm.
Fortunately she had on a thick, long sleeved shirt on, thus it ended up being a job for the washer, and my first aid skills were not called into play. Nonetheless, it was disturbing to me that even an ardent safety professional who is fanatical about hazard elimination, could make a slip up like this. I’m not sure there is any satisfying answer to this dilemma, but definitely goes to show that if we let our defenses down for just a second, our subconscious can take over our decision making, and cancel out our best efforts to always be aware and cognizant of the dangers around us. And, for me, it reinforces that we need to keep diligently plugging the holes in the Swiss Cheese!