The situation changes constantly around you, but does your perspective change with it? We all have our preferred methods of processing information, but how do we decide which one to use in a given situation? Is it a conscious decision? Personally, I think it can be a conscious decision, but most of the time it isn’t. Presented with a challenge or a problem we quickly work to devise a plan, likely using the most relevant and available heuristic or method we have at hand. This works; if it didn’t work we wouldn’t do it. Of course, “just because it works” isn’t always the best reason to do something.
Successful decision making relies on three things:
- Available information identifying two or more options to choose from
- An available construct or perspective for processing that information
- The ability to foresee possible outcomes and consequences of each available choice
A decision can’t be made without options, that’s a given. The construct or perspective used to process the information about the decision is the manner of thinking employed. Situational thinking indicates the ability to percieve the circumstances regarding the decision that needs to be made. Rather than simply reacting to the circumstances, conscious thought goes into identifying the options, the available information, and the possible outcomes. Then a plan suited to the circumstances is devised and enacted. For most people this all happens automatically and very quickly. It is pretty amazing.
The power to choose is natural and innate. Wisdom in choosing comes from experience and education. I have heard of making choices as an exercise of will or agency. I think using exercise is very appropriate. Wisdom in choosing comes from experience and education, and is the result of exercised will or agency. The more we consciously make choices after carefully considering the circumstances and the options, along with the expected outcomes, the more capable we become as decision makers. Situational thinking in the academic literature is more in depth than my simple application of the term here. It was just something I’ve been thinking about and wanted to explore it a little bit in my own way before I research it in the literature and see what other people are saying about it.
My conclusion is that situational thinking involves being an actor rather than a re-actor. Animals react, people should be able to do more than that. Perceiving the situation, considering the options, and acurately predicting the outcome is my suggested process of how people can act rather than react.