Criminals strategize every move while planning crimes. They envision what will happen from the moment they dream up their escapade until after they make their getaway. They know the occupational hazards of the crime include the possibilities of getting caught, convicted, wounded, or even killed.
By the time a criminal is prepared to carry out his crime, he is certain he will succeed and he has completely eliminated these possibilities of failure from his mind. He is operating under the thinking error known as “superoptimism,” and regards the crime as not only completed, but completely wrapped up as an unqualified success.
The criminal with the “superoptimism” thinking error believes that if he decides he wants to do something, he can consider it as good as done. As he plans his next illegal offense, he lives in a state of absolute certainty that he won’t get caught, no matter how ridiculous his plan. He doesn’t entertain reasonable doubts about anything he wants done.
His experience supports this certainty. He knows the likelihood of being arrested is low. He previously has gotten away with crimes without anyone suspecting him as the perpetrator. Although he is aware of the possibility that he could slip up, that things can go wrong, he is absolutely certain that it won’t happen “this time.”
Inmates have come to understand that superoptimism is the thinking error that kills criminals more than anything else. As an offender gets away with more and more crimes, he becomes more and more emboldened and develops a sense of invulnerability. He will begin to take greater and greater chances. In some cases, drug usage has contributed to this recklessness. Sometimes criminals who got away with complicated crimes in the past become overconfident and let down their guard, getting caught while committing a relatively minor offense.
If he plans to “one day” become a responsible person, he feels confident he will succeed at that too. He uses super optimism to convince himself that he doesn’t really have to work at things to make them turn out all right … he believes things will just fall in place for him without effort. He doesn’t see the connection between work and success … whether relating to a job, a relationship with someone he cares about, or staying out of prison upon release.
Continue to Chapter 21