THE BLOG
10/14/2013 02:42 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Stay Alive by Staying Alert

The simple wisdom of this piece's title is, of course, very well known. But it is also very well and regularly overlooked. Why? And what can you do about that?

The "why" probably lies in the well-known phenomenon called "denial". Denial comes in all sizes and shapes and does have some advantages in helping some people navigate through life.

But, certain forms of denial are quite dangerous.

For example, if you notice a little something new and different growing on your ear and it is merely annoying, though it slowly keeps getting a bit bigger, you may very well dismiss it as just another trivial wart and put off having someone look at it.

DO NOT DELAY!

Most probably you are right: it is benign and nothing. BUT that one chance in 10 that it is a cancer could cost you the rest of your life by simply delaying.

There are most often two reasons why you delay. One is that you are afraid of the possibility of bad news. The other is that you hate to waste money on doctors. Both those reasons are lousy reasons and you should keep reminding yourself--if you love life--that you should remain alert to any and all signs no matter how little or seemingly trivial and catch them early, not late.

Another area where people are often asleep at the switch is in driving cars. There are statistics that show that an amazingly large percentage of auto accidents occur within a half-mile of people's homes.

There would appear to be only two types of reasons for that. The first is that as one begins to drive from home perhaps one has not quickly enough adjusted to open road risks. The other is that, as you approach your home, the self-defense mechanisms that protect you on highways begin to relax in anticipation of reaching the haven of home. Whichever direction you may be going, remain aware and alert to this dangerous fact.

A third arena to be careful about is in dealing with people new in your life. This is sound advice for people you know socially, in business, or even romantically. For those you meet in politics, it's absolutely vital!

Humans are hard wired to be both cautious and trusting but those two instincts frequently cancel each other out, leaving people exposed to invisible signs and signals they would otherwise notice in dealings with others.

There is one pretty simple way to protect against these risks. Remember to ask yourself in all situations what YOU might be thinking if you were in the other person's head in whatever the situation might be.

For example, if you get into the politician's head, you will surely see that he/she is probably concentrating on your money and/or your vote.

In the person of the opposite sex, you may be able to see the thought that you represent security more than happiness?

In business dealings, the other person's head is full of getting your business, getting a good price or just the kick of winning.

And, socially, the other person's head may see you as a stepping stone to a club or something similar.

This may all sound very cynical and you obviously must also remember that the reason for thinking this way is not by any means to conclude anything definitive based on these types of thoughts BUT to use it to start the process of weighing carefully what may be in the other person's head and from that hopefully avoid unnecessary risks in your decision-making process.

You may be wondering where and why is all this "wisdom" coming from? Sigmund Freud is reported to have said to a young person who asked his advice about a certain type of unusual behavior; "is that person you describe, you?" It was not in fact the inquirer in that case, but somewhere, somehow all these types of behavior occur in most of us and it could from anyone anywhere. So remember the other old piece of advice: a word to the wise should be sufficient.

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