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The Danger of Rationalizing "Just This Once" Behavior

December 5, 2017
Home & Family

How many times have you said to yourself, “I’ll do this just this once. It'll be ok”?

For as much as I personally try to avoid this behavior, I recently found myself in the following predicament.

It was 11pm, and as I stood in front of my refrigerator staring at a large piece of chocolate cake, I thought to myself, “Why shouldn't I eat the cake? It’s the holidays. I'll do the right thing come January.”. The voice inside my head said, “I know eating cake at this hour goes against my better judgement, and generally I wouldn’t do it, but ‘tis the season!”.

My excuse became the extenuating circumstance that made the decision ok. I ate the cake. Unconsciously, many of us employ the concept of marginal cost in our personal lives. The idea that doing something "just this once" really won't matter much - that is will not be that costly.

It’s always alluring when we negotiate with the voice in our head. The voice is very persuasive, and the next thing we know, three days have passed and our metaphoric chocolate cake is all gone. Many times, we listen and act without really acknowledging what the true cost of the decision may be.

It would be great if the “just this once” justification only affected our caloric intake and waist lines. Unfortunately, negotiating with one's inner-self sometimes bleeds into other parts of our lives.

As a safety professional, I know the “just this once” justification can lead to catastrophic consequences. The allure of satisfying operational management is tough to deny… and easy to appease.

By the way, the cake was great, but even as I was holding the fork I was already regretting eating it.

Josh Densberger

Josh began his career as a Firefighter for the Orange County Fire Rescue Department in Florida. He taught the principles of fire science and safety at Seminole State College. He held the position of Corporate Safety Director at Waste Pro, and is currently Corporate Safety Manager at MSE Group. Josh earned a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from The University of Wyoming and a Master’s degree in Fire and Emergency Management from Oklahoma State University.

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