Mind The Gap

How often have you witnessed someone do something absolutely stupid and asked yourself, “What were they thinking?” Or maybe you concluded that they just weren’t thinking at all. 

The reality is that we are always thinking—even when it might be hard to believe otherwise.  

Problems can arise when we cross the chasm that exists between our thoughts and our actions. We don’t always make that crossing so well. For all kinds of developmental reasons, adolescent boys are often great examples of “not thinking.”

When I was a kid, my friend and I decided to pour gasoline into an upside-down metal garbage can lid—and ignite it. Of course we were thinking—thinking how cool will this be? In the ensuing conflagration we created, my friend’s clothes caught on fire. Thankfully, he avoided serious burns as he dropped to the ground and frantically rolled around to smother the fire. What he did not avoid, however, was serious punishment when his dad found out what he had done. As for me, I just kept the incident to myself and never told my parents. Why bring on trouble when, after all, I hadn’t caught on fire. At least I was thinking in the end. I am not claiming that at any point in that story I had good judgment.  

There is always thought before action. Even when someone claims they weren’t thinking, there was, even if ever so brief, a thought before the action. Judgment might have been poor or missing, but thought wasn’t.  

As many others have pointed out (often attributed first to Victor Frankl), there is a period of time when an idea enters our mind but before we take any action, that we have the opportunity to change that thought and therefore change our resulting actions. We must, however, become aware of that gap that exists between our initial thought and our eventual action, even if that gap is measured in milliseconds. We must mind the gap.  

The phrase “mind the gap” was first introduced and used in London in 1969 on the London Underground. According to  Wikipedia, “Mind the gap” is an audible or visual warning phrase issued to rail passengers to take caution while crossing the gap between the train door and the station platform.  

Think of the station platform as your thoughts, and the train as your actions. It makes sense. Trains move you places, just like your actions do. You have to cross that gap to get on the train or nothing happens, you remain standing on the platform. If you don’t mind the gap, you might take a misstep that could result in serious injury or even death. Not that all our thoughts will lead to such a conclusion (unless you are an adolescent boy perhaps.) 

Sometimes, be it in anger, bad judgment, or intrusive unwanted thought patterns, we get ideas that are best not acted upon. If we can mind the gap, we can choose what happens next when those types of thoughts come to us. It would be great if we could always control our thoughts. But the truth is that we are human and our initial thoughts in a situation are not always the best ones. Not a problem though, if we mind the gap.  

So, barring a situation in which you find yourself under total mind control, remember that you have the ability to mind the gap. 

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