What would you do if you saw a man sitting beside his car at an intersection?

intersection
Intersection | NYC by Navid Baraty on Behance.net

I had to ask myself this question a couple weeks ago. Biking home I passed a man sitting beside his car at an intersection. The only thought that went through my mind was, “That’s strange for him to be parked there, it’s kind of dangerous.” As I pedal past the intersection I heard someone yelling at me, turning around I saw the man at the car gesturing at me. Screeching my brakes to a halt I spun my bike around, waited for a car to pass, and went to see what was up. Turns out that while driving his car this man, now sitting beside the road, suddenly broke out in a sweat became nauseas and pulled over. Through broken breaths he explained that he was completely disoriented, dizzy and needed help. After speaking to a 911 responder on a cell phone a police officer arrived at the scene and I was released to go. As I biked away I had this thought, why hadn’t I stopped, why did I assume he had everything taken care of? I always imagined that in moments of need I would rise to any challenge and be the hero. But I hadn’t done that, instead I had biked right past this guy without stopping.

This got me thinking, what if I needed to make decisions about what I will do before I encountered disasters, rather than hope I will do the right thing when the moment arises. So I did just that, I made a personal choice that the next time I saw someone that looked like they may be in need (even if they are not), I would stop and ask if they needed help.

Well already a few opportunities have arisen in the last week and a half. Again while biking home last week I saw a man lying beside a women sitting in a wheelchair. But this time I braked  to stop and ask if they were alright. I was quickly greeted with two laughs as the man was only adjusting something on the wheelchair. The next week while driving from a meeting I saw a man on the side of the road gesturing to the traffic. As a car drove past I spun my car around and pulled over and asked if they needed help. Turns out they did. They needed jumper cables. Luckily I had some and we were able to start their car.

The moral of the story isn’t that I am a hero. No, it’s that I’m not a hero, yet after making the decision to help first and ask later I’ve found myself responding to opportunities where I would normally have driving past. I think that my change in behaviour is interesting. It has me wondering if we are wired to act on decisions that we have already made, rather than hoping we will make the right decision in the moment. In other words, will indecision lead to inaction and vice versa. Even as I write this I can think of numerous examples where I can see this applying elsewhere, but I won’t write all those thoughts now. Instead I would love to hear your thoughts on this, have you noticed pre-decisions making a difference in your life or business? Or do you think it matters at all?

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