“Status update. Week four. Weight: hasn’t changed. Body composition: I still look dumpy. Comments: I don’t like this program. I don’t really understand the movements. And I feel no change in my strength levels, despite all the squatting, deadlifting and pull ups you’ve had me doing.”
Four weeks into a strength program and already deciding it doesn’t work? That’s what’s called a premature conclusion.
Some other examples: Reading the first chapters of a book and deciding that the author’s other books must be as boring as this one. Going to a music festival and inferring that all festivals must be as well run and fun as the one you just got home from. Meeting someone for coffee and telling yourself that they weren’t as interesting and as stimulating as you thought they would be.
A premature conclusion is a decision or judgement reached without sufficient evidence, or without allowing ample time to gather relevant data. But isn’t every conclusions we reach in this life premature?
If you go back through the annals of science, what do you see again and again? Answer: an insight, innovation or discovery forcing us to re-evaluate the architecture of our knowledge. And that’s in a discipline as formal as science. In our lives, we draw conclusions all over the place. We decide what we like to do, when we like to do it, where we like to go, the people we will and won’t listen to, the experiences we prefer and are open to, and so much more. But most of these conclusions are made without sufficient thought or investigation.
Here’s another example. A lot of people, at an age where they are just coming into adulthood, are forced to choose what they want to spend their career doing, and thus what they will study when they go to university. The whole of the formal education system propagates the reaching of premature conclusions about how you want to spend your life.
And another. For most people, the conceiving and raising of children is an unquestionable right. But should it be? Do they consider the costs to themselves and the commitments required? Do they consider the world they’re bringing a new life into? Do they think they’re mature and secure enough to raise a child in the way it deserves? Have they thought about all the children already out there that could do with love and a family? These are questions I ask myself when I think about having kids. If I had to decide to have or not have children right now, I know my decision would be premature. I haven’t given it enough thought or explored the issues involved.
I suppose you could go through a similar process and shake the foundations of any decision or judgement you’ve made in life. Education, careers, relationships, health, whatever. But that’s my point. Practically all the decisions and judgements we make are premature when you consider the (lack of) evidence and thought that props them up.
So what to do? Obviously, we can’t not reach premature conclusions. To navigate reality, we have to make decisions and form judgements. The only thing we can do is have less faith in the conclusions we reach and be prepared to change our minds. That’s the only protection against the effects of a premature conclusion: the willingness to adapt according to new evidence.