The Greatest Error of Omission

leap by sgillins via flickrErrors of omission are errors we commit through inaction. They are the things we left out. They are the should-have-but-didn’t moments in our patient care as well as our lives. Administering an inappropriate medication is an error of commission. Not giving the medication when you should have is an error of omission. The difference is subtle but significant.

As a general rule, we fear errors of commission more than we fear errors of omission. We are more reluctant to do something wrong than to leave out an important detail or overlook something we should have acted on. Forgetfulness seems more palatable to us than ineptitude. This sets us up for some unproductive habits.

The greatest error of omission is the omission of boldness.

While society (whatever our chosen society may be) is busy tallying and recording the things that went wrong, the missed opportunities are rarely counted. So why not just choose the safest path? Better to let the possibility of failure pass by than risk being called out for failing right?

Regret tends to fade faster than the sting of failure. And for this reason we fear boldness.

Fear missed opportunities more than you fear failed opportunities. Fear the project not launched, the knowledge not gained, the experience not had, and the work not completed, more than you fear the lackluster performance or the failed initiative. Let our fear of failure drive the project after you’ve begun, but never before you’ve started.