Packaged Deal



You go to McDonalds. You don’t order a Royale with Cheese and then fries and then a Coke anymore. You order a number one. Apparently we don’t like to think about putting together an order of food. Listing three separate items is just too much for us to handle these days. We need it packaged into a neat, ideological box.

This mentality is beginning to spread to everything. College course plans. Vacation travel deals. Cell phone contracts. Boxed meals at the grocery store. We buy everything prefab now.

Like many things in marketing and commerce, it’s derived from convenience. It keeps us from having to sort out what specific items we want and/or need. It’s much easier for us to select from a list of pre-installed plans than to make the plan ourselves.

Of course when we do that, we sometimes get a few features that we don’t really like or that don’t fit with what we need. We’re willing to put up with those annoyances because it’s nothing compared to the time saved from not having to creating our own order.

While this isn’t much of an issue with food (because you can always sub fries for onion rings) it is when it comes to things like education. There’s a huge push to get students as young as eighth grade to begin plotting out their careers. When I was in eighth grade, I was more concerned about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles than I was about my future profession.

Educators and business leaders want these students to choose early so they can be prepared to enter the workforce once they get out of school. And they want them out of school earlier too.

While it’s always a good thing to know your way before you take the first step, that isn’t always the best option. When I was in eighth grade, I wanted to be a marine biologist. Had I chosen some predetermined course, where would it have left me once I discovered that organic chemistry was a hurdle I couldn’t jump?

Doors have to be left open. Like a fast food menu, we need to be able to make substitutions or to scrap our order all together.

My biggest fear is that we will get so entrenched in boxed thinking that we won’t consider that there are alternatives. We’ll forget the benefit, or necessity, of creating our own unique path.

The pitfall is that in the long run, we become incapable of thinking outside the prepared list of options. It not only becomes difficult to make changes to these plans but we get out of the practice of doing so and we stop considering alternatives.

It limits thinking. We all know how I feel about thinking.

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