Brake Light Awareness :: Urgency vs. Importance

About two weeks ago a friend told me that the brake lights were out on my Ford Explorer. I still haven’t replaced them.  I did actually buy the new bulbs though. I can prove it. They are sitting inside the truck, where they have been since last Thursday. Now, before you start leaving “helpful” comments, I am aware that driving without brake lights is dangerous and also illegal. I know that. I actually knew that back when I first heard about the lights being out. And every day since that point, I have fully intended to replace them. But somehow the brake lights always seem to make a slow and steady descent to the bottom of my to do list until it falls completely into the next day. I don’t exactly know why I keep putting it off. I mean, it’s only a five minute job and it’s actually pretty important.

Well, instead of changing the light bulbs, I’ve decided to try to figure out why I haven’t done it yet. And I’ve come up with a theory. I think it’s because there are no certain and immediate consequences to me not changing the bulbs. I may get pulled over, or I may not. I may get rear-ended, or I may not. I may be injured, or I may not. And each day that I don’t do anything about it and nothing happens, it serves to reinforce my belief that nothing will happen. That somehow I am immune to the consequences of not having functional brake lights.

I realize that this is stupid. And I also realize that if something were to happen because of my laziness, that this illusion of invincibility would be shattered and I would have to face the consequences of my actions, or in this case lack of actions.  I would probably end up wearing bright red t-shirts with big block letters that say or “Before Danger Strikes, Check Your Back Side Lights”. I imagine I would start touring different high school assemblies with a Brake Light Awareness program, where I’d share the story of my carelessness and the consequences of my non-brake light changing ways. Then I would have all the students start chanting “Car Wrecks Bite…Change Your Lights” (which is the makings of another great shirt). And we would end every assembly with all of the kids over 16 signing a pledge to check their brake lights every week. They would all leave excited, motivated and determined to start checking their lights…tomorrow…or the next day…or maybe next week…or perhaps after graduation.

That’s the problem with precautionary measures. We discover a problem, hear a story, or see a YouTube video and get really motivated to take certain precautions so that we don’t become victims. But, because there are no certain and/or immediate consequences, we tend to put off actually following through. And the longer we put something off the more likely we are to feel that we don’t really need it or to simply forget about it altogether.

We hear the story of a family that is being ripped apart because of an affair or a pornography addiction and we’re determined to set up safeguards in our lives… tomorrow. We hear a sermon about the danger of doing life alone and we are determined to get into a small group (this is church lingo for smaller groups of believers that meet regularly for study the bible, pray and build significant relationships), but decide that we’re too busy right now and we’ll do it later. Its the difference between theory and practice. We believe its important but not in a way that changes our actions. There are thousands of examples. We make these types of decisions on a daily basis. We naturally prioritize the things in our lives that have immediate and certain consequences, no matter how unimportant those things may actually be in the long run, and we end up neglecting huge issues that may eventually destroy us.

What are your “brake lights”? What do you know you need to do, but have put off simply because there are no certain and/or immediate consequences?

Don’t be distracted by the task that’s right in front of your face. Try making a list and prioritizing it by importance instead of urgency. Your day may be a little less convenient, but your life may play out far better.

I think I’m going to go change my brake lights now. Actually, I’ll probably post this blog first. And well, I should probably get lunch soon. Oh… I almost forgot, I’ll need to pick up Gavin this afternoon at Preschool.

Well, I’ll change the lights sometime…

(PS – Mom, I am actually going to change the lights before I drive anywhere else. Don’t freak out!)

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