By: Barry Switay
In the trenches of college life, decisions about all sorts of things come up every day. Some of them are small like what to eat for lunch. These choices don’t always require lots of time to consider. We can usually make them quickly and not have any regrets.
On the other hand, many of our decisions are large and do require some serious thought such as whether to move to an unfamiliar place to pursue our dreams.
We can face serious difficulties if we take a shortcut to thinking and jump to conclusions.
Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, co-author of “Picking Cotton,” represents an excellent example of the harm one can inflict.
As many of us know, she picked the wrong man in a line up and Ronald Cotton wound up spending more than 10 years in prison as a result.
I do not mention this to discount the difficulty of Thompson-Cannino’s situation, but to illustrate that often the most difficult decisions we are faced with are made all the more difficult by massive uncertainty.
The really tough thing in making difficult decisions is sitting with our uncertainty. To be unsure and not know the answer is an ex- tremely uncomfortable position.
The uncertainty of difficult decisions is compounded by the fact that we generally cannot appeal to any kind of authority for the “correct” answer.
Asking others for their advice or experience is often a very wise thing to do. However, we are all unique individuals. Thus anyone’s input into our life situation is simply their input, not any sort of absolutely “right” or “correct” perspective.
Jumping to a conclusion allows us to avoid the anxious struggle of somewhat existential life decisions, but we all know how it feels to look back and wish we had taken a little more time to think things through.
Setting ourselves apart from those who pressure us to make our decisions in one way or another is no easy feat.
Furthermore, to be confident that we are standing far enough away from a situation to view it as objectively as possible borders on a superhuman task.
This is especially true when we consider situations as serious as Thompson-Cannino’s. In any event, the takeaway here is patience. Although ‘be patient and follow your dreams’ is the sort of cliché we may remember seeing on a poster in some middle school principal’s office, there is usually a great deal of truth to these corny posters.
We all know that life happens fast, and can be altered in just a few seconds. Sometimes we don’t have the luxury of stepping back from a situation to calm down and think about it.
I am just as guilty as any of us when it comes to conclusion-jumping, but I’m willing to bet that if we can manage to sit in that uncomfortable state of uncertainty for a little bit longer and work towards getting a better perspective, those big life decisions will have fewer negative repercussions.