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Jumping to Conclusions, Inclusions, & Consciousness

Most of us are taught to “look before you leap,” to assess all available facts and consider possible consequences before making decisions or taking action. The frenetic pace of our lives today, however, does not always afford us the time to carefully review every pertinent detail. In fact, the less time we have, the more vulnerable we are to a decision-making flaw that neuroscientist refer to as availability bias – a mental shortcut the brain takes based on our own limited and subjective experience. So, we jump to all sorts of conclusions regardless of accuracy or benefit, as well as to inclusions, and consciousness.

A woman is running through a forest as fast as she can. She is smart and agile, able to quickly navigate her way across the slippery, uneven terrain. She can see her destination in the far distance and feels certain of her trajectory even though most of the way is shrouded in thick leaves and a heavy mist. She comes to a giant tree trunk laying across the path, blocking her vision of the trail beyond. She believes she can leap over the tree, so without hesitation, she speeds up and jumps. What she finds when she lands on the other side is not more trail as she had expected, but a giant swamp. She sinks deep into the mud. As she struggles to find a way out, she realizes that if she had stopped at the tree and looked around, she would have seen a smooth, clear path around the swamp.

Jumping to Conclusions

Jumping to conclusions (JTC) is a psychological term for the tendency to reach unwarranted judgments without having all of the facts. We jump to conclusions when we fail to distinguish between what we observed first hand from what we have only inferred or assumed. This can often lead to rash decisions and unfortunate consequences, like landing in a swampy situation.

We make hasty judgments about ourselves and others, as well as the world around us. Sometimes we overinflate our sense of self, and sometimes we undervalue our own worth. Neither mindset is accurate nor helpful. And we extend such misperception to other people even to the detriment of their safety, peace, and well-being. As we witness in the daily news daily, harsh actions are taken against certain people based on faulty logic: Because the man next to me in the airplane looks like he is of Middle East descent, he must be a Muslim, and because a few Muslims were responsible for the 9-11 attacks, this man is, therefore, a terrorist and I must fear him. Because the Latino man across the street is wearing droopy drawers he must be in a gang, and because gangs commit violent crimes, the man is, therefore, a dangerous criminal and I must shoot him before he can shoot me. Because the white woman is driving a large-size SUV, and because the Republican-led Congress voted against environmental controls, she is, therefore, a far-right conservative and I must vilify her. On and on our non sequitur reasoning goes as we presume guilt by loose association without due process.

It is unlikely we will ever know absolutely everything about everyone or every situation. However, we can withhold judgment until we have reasonable and credible information to make mindful determinations. Standing as a compassionate witness, willing to consider a more complete picture of a situation or the benefit of the doubt may well change our preconceived notions to fresh perspectives.

“Life is the art of drawing sufficient conclusions from insufficient premises.”

- Samuel Butler

Before jumping to a conclusion, ask yourself:

  • Does the conclusion embody the wholeness of the person or situation?

  • Does the conclusion represent what is familiar/easy/popular right now or expedite a result?

Jumping to Inclusions

Inclusion is the principle of taking in people as members or participants of a larger group or structure without bias towards ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, etc. Inclusion (or inclusivity) is the premise of equality, including human rights, and goes hand-in-hand with diversity. Many organizations are finally realizing the myriad benefits of a diverse team with inspired innovation, meaningful collaboration, increased satisfaction, and better outcomes. Yet, without practicing inclusion, diversity is nothing more than an EEOC metric. It is when we involve people of dissimilar constitutions, backgrounds, and perspectives that we develop our best ideas, solutions, and results.

The benefits of diversity and inclusion are often immeasurable. For example, the US Department of Education recognized in their report on “Advancing Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education”:

“…both the tremendous value of increased diversity in higher education, and the role of higher education as a keystone to health, happiness, and economic mobility for all students, including low-income students and students of color. Diverse and inclusive environments at colleges and universities also strengthen American democracy by facilitating the exchange of perspectives and values among students from various ethnic, cultural, and economic backgrounds." (November 2016)

Building communities of every size, type, and purpose based on diversity and inclusion ensure that “all people have the right to be part of decisions that affect their lives and the groups they belong to.” (Center for Community Health and Development, University of Kansas 2018) And yet, not everything is meant for everyone. In some circumstances, rushing to include everyone can undermine even the best of intentions. From real case studies:

  • A large, national organization was suffering low morale after the workforce learned they would not receive any pay increases but all senior officials would receive salary bumps and fat bonuses. To diffuse the tension of such blatant disparity, one senior executive suggested an award program so that staff could receive some form of financial increase and recognition. However, based on a recent mandatory diversity and inclusivity training, the awards committee felt compelled to allow senior management to receive the monetary rewards – the same folks who had already benefitted financially - as “a show of inclusion” (words actually stated in the official announcement). When one of the managers won the biggest award, the entire initiative backfired and ignited even more internal division and resentment.

  • The International Olympics Committee’s (IOC) decision to open the games to professional athletes is one of the most widely debated issues of inclusion based on status. On one side is the argument that professional athletes should be included because it raises the bar of elite competition, a true exhibition of “the best in the world”. On the other side is the argument against inclusion because of the unfair advantage for professional athletes who receive better training, equipment, and access unavailable to amateur athletes. As the former President of the IOC, American Avery Brundage stated, "We can only rely on the support of those who believe in the principles of fair play and sportsmanship embodied in the amateur code in our efforts to prevent the Games from being used by individuals, organizations or nations for ulterior motives." After his retirement in 1972 and nearly a century of the “amateur code” under IOC leadership, the economic value of sponsorship that comes with professional athletes outweighed the founding principle of amateur competition. By jumping to inclusion, the IOC arguably created an inequitable over-dog versus under-dog playing field.

Before jumping to inclusion, consider these two guiding questions:

  • Does inclusion create equal opportunity for all?

  • Does inclusion create an unfair advantage for some?

Jumping to Consciousness

For those on a path of spiritual awakening, the choice of jumping to conclusions or jumping to consciousness – the awareness of personal and collective beliefs - appears a non-starter. Intellectually, we understand the importance of thoughtful decision making, particularly free of predisposition in any form. We strive to be mindful in our daily practices and exercise nonjudgment. There can be, however, a tendency to perpetually contemplate the issue at hand and never reach a conclusion. Some seasoned meditators, for example, spend significant time each day in deep silence as a means to disengage from the material world bound with effects and commune with the spiritual realm free with possibilities. They can contemplate nothingness and receive astute insights into the stillness. Others use the practice instead of as a mechanism to hide-out from their true feelings or a decision to be made because of the fear that rises from unknown consequence. They turn a profound, sacred practice of love into an escape route for fear.

One such case is that of a church group stuck in a cycle of launching and re-launching an international peace meditation initiative. While developing the program, the committee members continually gained new insight into what they believed was the most inspired program name or the most effective method of delivery. Each person believed he or she acted in high consciousness and insisted that their information was somehow righter than another member’s contribution. Instead of using the various ideas to foster healthy collaboration or improve upon what was established, the group twisted in the wind, never finding a direction to move forward. They jumped to semi-consciousness as the identity of mind over matter without taking thought to action.

“The key to growth is the introduction of higher dimensions of consciousness into our awareness.” ~Lao Tzu

As with conclusions and inclusions, jumping to spiritually-attuned consciousness requires psychological consciousness, as well - the fully present state of mind imbued with clarity, objectivity, and truthfulness. An indication of a decision born of whole and high consciousness is that the outcome causes no disrespect, disruption, or harm to any other being but rather, expands the benefit naturally.

Before jumping to consciousness, consider these two guiding questions:

  • Does consciousness further growth for some at the expense of others?

  • Does consciousness create an understanding of all, for the good of all?

Conclusions, Inclusions, & Consciousness – No Jumping Allowed

To justify our jumping means we agree to live the half-truths of convenience. A conclusive bias is an obstacle to constructive communications, healthy relations, and prosperous communities. An unfair advantage is a shift away from positive competition, creativity, and collaboration. And prolonged navel staring is a chasm to a connection. Every act of volition determines who we are and how we experience ourselves. So rather than jumping half-heartedly or absent-mindedly into any opinion or decision based on convenience or conformity, we can, instead, draw conclusions of truth, incite inclusions of oneness, and raise our consciousness of loving kindness.

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