Understanding Yourself

Joan Marques - MBA, Doctoral Student
Burbank, California, August 11, 2002

Lately I have been wondering if it is possible for anyone to really understand him- or herself fully. Why? Because I find, as I grow older, that some of the things I seem to be dreading, are still part of my daily routine, which must indicate that they are probably fulfilling a need in some regard and to some extent.

Mull over it for a moment: Aren't there some issues in your life that you constantly declare having to deal with someday soon, yet simply don't tackle for reasons that may not even be entirely clear to you? Whether in the career arena or the private environment, there are limitless examples of things people do that they complain about. Yet they do them: day after day.

  • Are you, for instance, one of those employees that dread going to work in the morning, yet never screen the papers or online job-databases for alternatives?
  • Are you one of those spouses that nitpick about a partner and his or her shortcomings, yet never seriously consider another, even if that one is offered to you on a silver platter?
  • Are you one of those entrepreneurs that complain endlessly about the cumbersome uncertainty of today's roller-coaster business trends, yet never seriously consider a nine-to-five job in a large corporation?
  • Are you one of those lonely people that often complain about their solitude, yet always find a valid reason for potential lovers not to be eligible for a long-term commitment?

    Are you one of those?

    If you recognize one or more of the abovementioned issues (or others that come to mind while reading these) that make you frown about your own actions or the lack thereof, you should consider whether you really know yourself.

    And if you've already done so, you may be one of the few people that - at least - come close to an understanding of the fact that we never really know ourselves. Scary thought, isn't it? For if we can't even get a grasp of ourselves, how are we supposed to ever fathom others? And yet we are arrogant - or na´ve - enough to be surprised about partners packing their bags after twenty years of marriage... or colleagues of 30 years announcing their entry into a free-spirited world of some kind, indicating that they will cease living the lifestyle of the "regulars" from now on.

    It's easy to drive yourself ballistic by wondering if you will ever understand yourself. Since I've been there and forced myself to thorough self-analysis regarding some of my incomprehensible actions, I can now share the following conclusion with you:
    "Never get upset with your actions, no matter how odd they may seem from a "sober" standpoint. You are probably satisfying a deep-seated need within you without being able to rationalize it"

    With this statement in mind, we can now reassess the earlier mentioned behaviors:

  • If you are one of the above-described complaining employees, you probably feel better about being in your current workplace than about starting all over in a new environment. Although there may be minus-points to your current job, you probably feel more comfortable to stay than to go through the hassle of job-hunting. That explains your lack of initiative toward seeking another job while everyone else does.
  • As a nitpicking spouse, the love you feel for your partner is probably more than the aggravation of dealing with his or her shortcomings. The day you are really tired of it, you will find your way out. Nowhere before that.
  • As a currently unsuccessful entrepreneur complaining about today's risky business climate, you probably have a passion for gambling. Insecurity attracts you, although you will never admit it. And you prefer an apprehensive climate above a dreadful nine to five routine, and even the steady paycheck that may accompany that routine!
  • As a loner, finally, you probably enjoy the peaceful serenity of your own company more than a possible partner, who you will have to please at times when you are not in the mood to do so. Call it a prolonged wave of selfishness, a permanent allergy for commitments, or a fatal form of self-exaltation it's all justified as long as you enjoy your personal harmony.

    The pattern that shines through these elucidations is that we, human beings, are not only creatures of habit, but even more: creatures of convenience. We instinctively weigh the advantages of an experience against the disadvantages, intuitively do some simple adding and subtracting, and reflexively determine our actions on basis of the outcome. Voila! The necessity of math is proven! And with that, also the real reason behind every action we take - or cease to take - in our lives.