How do you choose what you do not know?

In 1 on March 28, 2010 at 5:05 am

I was reminded by someone’s post on facebook tonight of a pet pieve of mine in the counseling world.  I have often heard counselors tell people  that while we cannot control what happens in life, we can choose how we respond.  Really?

My experience in working with people is that people simply cannot, and therefore do not, choose what they do not know.  How do we feel what we never touch?  How do we choose what we do not know?  How do we know what we never learn?

I know this is oversimplifying things, but it is real as far as I can tell.  I became more aware of this as I started observing people and how they responded to life.  Sadly, the pace of the world today seems to pressure people into making choices instead of stepping back and admitting they don’t know something…and then wondering what they might need to learn.

This was at the heart of my research for years.  I made a lot of mistakes in how I responded to things when I was younger.  Yet, other people around me seemed to make better choices, choices that were not in my arsenal.  My research had a simple purpose– to teach me more, to increase my degrees of freedom.

What if education actually was about teaching people how to learn, how to act in their own best interest?  What if education truly was about increasing degrees of freedom?

Too often what people learn, what people think they know, is actually something someone else told them or taught them.

How do you choose what you do not know?  I came face to face with this as a high school senior and as a basketball player, when I would go into downtown DC to tutor kids at a school that was populated by kids who came from poor families.  The first day I was there, I watched a little boy slap a little girl in the face.  The teacher grabbed the little boy and made him stand with his hands behind his back.  The she told the little girl to slap him back.  The little girl did not want to do it.  She was in tears as she slapped him.

How many choices do we make when the only things we know don’t solve a problem?  How often do we choose only what other people who seem to have power in our lives offer us, satisfying their needs, but not solving a problem?

I often write that Nothing is sometimes the greatest thing of all.  It is the space to make a mistake, to try something new, or to take a step back.  But, alas, so many people are afraid of that space, of the nothingness, that would allow learning, consideration….

In his article The Physical Genius, Gladwell wrote that the power of these people comes from their imagination, to create as Yo Yo Ma suggested something living out of nothing.

How many of us truly feel that when faced with the need to choose, choose our own imagination?

How do we choose what we do not know?


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