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Paul Grobstein's picture

choosing and advising

I find myself increasingly declining to "advise" students and, instead, trying to figure out what I can do to un-block them. The underlying idea here is that choice is actually a lot easier than we often feel it to be when we think about it. Students (and others) most frequently have trouble making choices because they can think of one thing or another wrong with everything they have thought of. And frequently are most helped by someone either giving permission to ignore something they think is wrong or suggesting additional alternatives that hadn't occured to them. The problem in general isn't too many choices but not enough "good" ones, where "good" means opening up a future that has intriguing possibilities in it, one that one looks forward to exploring.

Along these lines, I'm inclined to argue that one should think of any current situation not in terms of "limitations" or '"constraints" but rather in terms of what opportunities it makes available. The former presumes one knows where one is trying to get to; the latter offers the option of instead looking forward to further exploring. My guess is that, given the genuine option, people will generally choose the latter.

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