Try to get a wide perspective of things and expand your horizons. This will help you take wise decisions.

Sonal wanted to present a paper at a conference in a prestigious university. But all her friends had already paired up and the ones who were left were not ‘her kind of people.’ “I can’t work with people I don’t vibe with,” she told her mother. “So I am not participating.” “It is not a lifelong partnership. It is only a partnership for fifteen days,” her mother argued. But Sonal refused to budge from her stand.

Perhaps she did not realise that she was missing a big opportunity. Working with someone she did not ‘like’ for a few days was a small price to pay for the pleasure and value of adding a paper presentation to her C.V. For Sonal, yesterday’s petty fight was more important than her C.V.

Often students do not spare a moment to weigh priorities or speculate on the consequences of their actions and decisions. But decisions based on emotions and impulses are often prone to be wrong.

If Sonal had emotionally distanced herself from her problem she might have got a wide angle view of it. Distance adds objectivity and perspective. But most of us fail to achieve it on one or another occasion in our lives.

Big picture

College provides the right platform to cultivate the ability to find a wide angle view. Here, for the first time in your life, you are faced with choices and decisions. What subject should you specialise in? Should you participate in the forthcoming event or not? What topic should you speak on in the class seminar? Should you apply for the project position advertised on the notice board or just concentrate on preparing for the semester exams? Should you spend the summer holidays doing a training or just chill? Should you look at research and academics or go for that super-paying corporate job?

Use these opportunities to practise the skill of getting a wider perspective. Look short term and look long term. Try to visualise the pros and cons. Make two columns on paper and list them out. Discuss them with a good friend. Spend some time with yourself, anareflecting honestly. Try to consciously distance your emotions from your decisions. Look at issues, as it were, in the spirit of a scientist looking through a telescope. The world will look different and the possibilities, endless. Naturally decisions taken with this perspective will be wiser.

The value of participation in a conference was lost on Sonal because she took a rather narrow view. Sarabjit’s case was a little different. He found the perfect partner and entered his name for a paper presentation. There were just four days left for the abstract to be submitted. But neither he nor his partner had zeroed in on their topic yet. They furiously browsed the net for possible topics. Their subject was vast and their exploration was naturally arbitrary. Neither had so far developed a passion or affinity for any of the branches of the core subject. They felt like they were seeking a needle in a haystack. The world’s endless possibilities looked daunting. They gave up.

Why didn’t Sarabjit’s exploration give him a wide angle view of his subject? Why did he fail to zoom into the perfect idea? Sarabjit’s mistake was that he was trying to crunch a long duration activity into a very short time. Exploration does not bear instant results. Had he been constantly updating his knowledge beyond the requirement of his curriculum over a couple of semesters, he would have been ready when an opportunity presented itself. Like Sonal, Sarabjit was also working with only short term goals in mind.

Beyond comfort zones

To get a genuinely sound perspective, make a habit of expanding your horizon, inch by inch, minute by minute. At the social level, this will involve moving beyond the security and comfort of small homogenous groups into larger more diverse groups of people. Diversity and heterogeneity will enrich your worldview; make you more empathetic, accepting, and flexible and supple. And that’s important because even if you get ‘your kind of job’ in the future, there’s no guarantee that you will find ‘your kind of colleagues or bosses.’

At the intellectual level, this will mean exploring your subject, reflecting on your responses, and identifying what resonates with you. These are slow processes that mature the mind over a period of time. As your horizon expands, your perspectives will change and mellow, and your decisions will get wiser. Remember also, that the first step in this process of maturation is to cultivate the old-fashioned quality of patience, because patience pays.