How Not Knowing Ourselves Fosters Bad Decisions
Forty to 50 percent of first time marriages end in divorce.
Approximately 30 percent of first year college students drop out, and about half of all students who start college, never graduate. On average, employees change jobs every 24-48 months, having 10-15 jobs throughout their careers. This clearly points to a big issue: we have problems finishing what we’ve started.
Why is that?
The simple answer: We just don’t know ourselves.
Society is like a giant megaphone, telling us what to think, what to believe, what to study, where to work, who to marry, how to live, and on and on it goes. As George Saunders says in his essay, “The Braindead Megaphone,” we always listen to the loudest voice. The person who has the megaphone tells us what to think, and herein lies the problem: we let others hold the megaphone and tell us what to think.
So consider this. Take every decision in life – where you live, work, what you believe, who you love, what you eat, where you spend your money, among other things – and ask yourself: who is making this decision?
If your response is that it is yours, then you will likely connect to something meaningful and your ability to stick to it will improve. If it is another’s voice you hear, you will likely find yourself unhappy, unsuccessful or feeling out of place; it will be just a matter of time before you are compelled to change, divorce, drop out or move.
There are so many examples of this in every day life. Here are a few:
I know a family whose successful attorney father has mandated law degrees for his two sons. Both started, neither finished. Now they have no relationship with their dad. I watched the torment in a friend’s face as she broke off a relationship with a person she adored because her family did not approve of his religious background. I coached a despondent gay man threatening suicide because he was stuck in a marriage that he never wanted but was told he would embarrass his family and ruin their lives if he came out. I know hundreds of employees who count the moments until the workday is over, or have difficulty getting to work, because they hate what they do. There is no passion, interest or effort.
We have the ability to choose how we show up to the events in our life.
When we allow others to make this choice for us, we frequently show up in areas that don’t fit us. We start and stop. We get married, then divorced. We change majors, change jobs and change friends.
This happens because we are on someone else’s road. Yet so many people blindly travel in this direction because the megaphone says go there, do this, buy this, believe this.
Every now and then, some of us come to our senses and we change things. We realize we are in a place where we don’t belong. Bravo! But it takes knowing ourselves to make this change, and make the right type of change. Without this insight, we just start the wandering and bad decisions cycle over again by selecting a road that still isn’t right for us.
Without information about ourselves and our world, we cannot connect the two and choose the right road. Getting on the right road requires three things: clarity, choice and courage.
Let’s start first with a reality check. We are not like others; we have unique talents, strengths, passions and dreams. These attributes guide us – they create the roadmap for a life that will help us feel and bring our best to our world.
To gain clarity requires that we show up to our lives to discover (some say “uncover” ) what we were born with, what our DNA predisposes us to be exceptional at. Though we each are born great, we didn’t get an owner’s manual to decode our greatness. Instead, we discover it by showing up aware, present and awake. We discover what we rock at and what we stink at. We observe what moves us and what repels us. This gives us information. Information encourages clarity. Clarity prepares us for good choices.
With greater clarity about who we are, we start to see the world differently. We start to notice opportunities and possibilities that fit us, that matter to us. This is what I call being in your Greatness Zone. In our Zone, we choose things that fit us.
We become aware of our own voice and trust it in our choices.
We are happier, content and more successful. We aren’t ready to quit, leave, divorce or end things; we complete things. But being able to make the choice doesn’t mean you do. That requires courage.
We become bolder when we know ourselves and see the success in our choices. We develop a stronger sense of self. We more clearly defend our beliefs, our values and our interests. We are not so easily swayed by the megaphone – we listen to it because it may have information for us – but then we determine what to do next. Courage happens when we are in our Zone.
Clarity creates sound choices, which fuels our courage. When we are clear about who we are and what we want in life, we make better decisions. We choose better partners, better jobs, better lives – we have the courage to say what fits us, matters to us and is important to us. We show up to our lives, then we stay with our decisions because they fit us. We don’t divorce, drop out or depart so often. We are in a good place for us because we owned our decisions. They made sense for us.