Why did you buy that shirt? Why do you think you should follow a diet plan? Why did you select that make-up brand? Why did you vote for that political party? Why did you select that course for your higher studies?
We think that we know the answers to these questions and can simply tell why we did what we did.
I bought that shirt because it looked good on me. Diet plan? Definitely, for a healthy lifestyle. Oh! I just loved its foundation and its lipstick shades were to die for. I think that leader is best for our country. I have an excellent grip on its subjects.
Are these answers satisfactory?
For how long?
I pondered on this when I was working as an education consultant and counselor. One of my most favorite job tasks at that time was to prepare the students for their interviews with the embassies. There was a long list of questions, and the students were supposed to prepare answers to them following their motivation letters. But most of the time I wrote those answers and they used to memorize them word-to-word. But before giving them the ready-made halva, I used to ask them a few questions that were also among the most important part of the preps. And almost all of them started with a “Why”.
Why this country (Germany, Australia, Canada, etc.)?
Why not Pakistan?
Why this course?
Why this university?
The answers I used to prepare included a lot of things such as describing the effective education system of the foreign countries, the ranking of the universities, the employment rate of graduates, and the excellent lifestyle of the people living abroad.
But the answers my students used to give were as follows:
Materials engineering? I don’t even know what that is. The name sounds fancy.
Software engineering? I came here for business studies, but they got me this admission.
I have chosen this university because of its ranking. What is the ranking? I asked. That, I don’t know.
I have selected this country because of its beautiful places; my uncle graduated from there; my brother lives there; I just like that place; I just want to go somewhere; I need an escape; my girlfriend’s mom wanted me to do something extraordinary so I decided to get an international degree!
And some answered that they don’t know their reasons for selecting those countries, universities, and even courses.
One of my students told me after a year of his departure that he wanted to come back to Pakistan. It was a bad choice. He couldn’t live abroad. And I remembered that he was very passionate when I was preparing him for the interview. Where did he lose it? I wondered.
How can I forget my own example?!
I was very enthusiastic about studying Electronics Engineering. And when asked, “Why electronics?”, the only answer I had was because I love chapter 18 of my Physics book. And yeah, I love gates- OR, NOR, AND, NAND! And the PN-junction too. But the gates and PN-junction got lost in control systems, instrumentation, microcontrollers, and what not. After graduating as a constant position holder of my batch, I questioned myself, “Why electronics, Rabia? Why? Software engineering was much better!”
It is hard to believe at the time of making a choice that we can be wrong about ourselves. We can perfectly believe that this is the reason for our choice, but deep inside something is missing in our reasoning.
This all seemed a bit disturbing. I started thinking that people keep changing and even I’m prone to taking wrong decisions. But there is something to ponder in this regard. That is, we can change our minds. Peter Johansson, a renowned psychologist, said, “our attitudes are not set in stone. We’re a little bit more flexible than we think. And we can also change the minds of others if we can only get them to engage with the issue and see it from the opposite view. I’ve always had the rule that you’re allowed to take things back. Just because I said I liked something a year ago, doesn’t mean I have to like it still. And getting rid of the need to stay consistent is actually a huge relief and makes relational life so much easier to live”
This is a relief, but it doesn’t mean that we should keep taking decisions without any critical thinking. For instance, if the students going abroad do some research on the country they are going, the pros and cons of living abroad, and talk to the students who are already studying in that country, that could help them a lot in making a decision. And only if I had done some research on what Electronics engineering is actually about, what is the scope of that degree, and talked to the graduates of that program, I might have changed my decision.
I regretted my decision for some time, but then realized that it was what I wanted to be. And that was a relief. I wanted to be an Electronics Engineer and that I am. I liked Software and computer systems and that I studied after graduation taking several courses. I wanted to counsel students and thus I worked in an education consultancy. I wanted to be a writer and so I started this blog.
Yes, we should know our ‘Whys’; we should apply the principles of critical reasoning in the choices we make, but we are also allowed to change our choices if it doesn’t devastate anyone or anything around us.