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Caution or cop out

In the sound bite environment the world is becoming, we’ve taken on some of the more predominant cultural phenomena for not believing or believing less in yourself.

· Give it 110%

· Practice makes perfect

· That’s good enough

· Strike while the iron is hot

· Failure is not an option


These are some of the recent targets of our crusade to rid the world of unenthusiastic living using these and similar cliches as reasons for not trying or justification for failure. We’ve even challenged those who start their days with a spiritless “What if” rather than a proactive “if then.” Another phrase that’s creeping deeper into our lives is the feeble “Just in case.”


“Just in case” has roots of good intention, the more cautiously pragmatic “in case,” but when “just” was added, its roots became shallower and it turned into a copout. Let’s compare “just in case” to “in case” as we did “what if” versus “if then.”


“In case” is not too distantly removed from “if then” in that it acknowledges something is possible and provides a solution. It is almost an extension of Failure Mode Analysis (FMA) that we loosely described as “if a particular problem arises in fact, you have already answered it in theory.” A classic “in case” example is “take this umbrella, in case it rains." You recognize a certain possibility (it will rain) and you prepare a certain response (have an umbrella). The FMA acknowledgement might sound like “if it rains, use an umbrella.” You are not saying it will happen. You are acknowledging it is a possibility, and if it should happen, you have already worked out the answer. The biggest difference between “in case” and “if then” is the level of certainty is higher. When you say “in case” you are not implying it will happen, but it is not unlikely and often more likely than not.


The difference between “in case” and “just in case” is quite significant. In its earliest iteration, the word just was likely ‘just’ a superlative. It has morphed into a sarcastic expression, the new “yeah, right.” It completes the conversation “I think I’ll take this umbrella,” with “Sure, just in case…” pushing the possibility of something happening into the realm of it being not at all likely and condescendingly so, often belittling the other’s choices or for excusing one’s own uncertain selection.


“In case” is a positive addition to nearly all affirmations, simply indicating that difficulties or unexpected obstacles are possible and they have been recognized, acknowledged, and a solution or remedy already considered. It is a valid description of potential actions in response to a potential stimulus and is as positive as reviewing all potential outcomes in an FMA review, demonstrating good sense and caution.


We should never be made to feel unsure because we approach life with caution. It is the cautious one who plans for all possibilities, including the more unpleasant ones, who finds enthusiasm even in the activities of everyday life.



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