I went to the dentist today, and he suggested I try a certain treatment to soothe my gums, then come back in a week to see if it worked. “If this doesn’t work, then what?” I asked. He waved his hand and said something along the lines of, “We’ll talk about it next week.”
In essence, he was saying, “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it” – something I’m particularly bad at. In my mind, I’m already crossing the bridge, falling off, and getting eaten by piranhas in the river below.
My boyfriend isn’t that way, and he invented a special phrase for his approach: “just-in-time thinking,” inspired by just-in-time computer programming. From what he tells me, just-in-time programming involves holding off processes until they absolutely need to be executed, allowing things to run faster in the meantime. For him, just-in-time thinking frees up his mind now until it’s absolutely necessary to make a decision. For me, I just end up hearing “we’ll figure it out later” a lot from him.
But I feel uneasy if I don’t have my possible future paths figured out now. I want to know if this doesn’t work, what will I do? What are we doing tonight? After Hong Kong, where will we live? Sometimes that makes sense, and you want to be prepared for eventualities – if I don’t get this job, how will I make money? But other times it doesn’t, like when I get distracted from work trying to figure out what we’ll have for dinner, and I can’t focus until my brain has worked it out. (Am I the only one this happens to?) Or I end up dwelling on worst-case scenarios that never come to pass.
Perhaps I’ve picked up a silly assumption along the way, something like “You need to have all the answers” or “Everything has to be figured out.” But there are too many bridges in life, and we could spend all our time crossing them in our heads. Instead, I’ll try to meditate on the maxim “all in good time.”
I’m constantly “crossing that bridge when I come to it”. The problem is, unlike computers, part of our ongoing decision-making process depends on our identity. Identity, as self-consciousness over time, is better defined when it can extend further into the future. If I have more information about who I am because I know where I’ll be after Hong Kong or how I’ll get paid in the future, I should have more confidence in my current decisions about both trivial and non-trivial things. In that sense, the person who takes the time and effort to establish future commitments is more “efficient” than the person who delays those decisions.
Hey Josh! So maybe we should distinguish between decisions that make sense to make now (‘where will I live next?’) vs. decisions that don’t make sense to make now (conditional statements, like ‘if X happens, what will I do?’) In the latter case, you may never have to deal with that situation, so you may be wasting your time thinking about it. Or how else would you account for worrying about future circumstances that never come to pass?