When I first decided to write on the importance of "understanding" I wondered if you'd would think I was talking about some kind of passive attitude toward life, or advocating some form of forgiveness called "understanding how it wasn't their fault." But I'm talking about neither.
I'm reaching as deep as I can into the meaning of what it is to understand. Because actually, if your life is chaotic, understanding how that happens truly helps.
We think understanding means analyzing. What do when you try to understand your partner, for example? You dissect. You pick apart. You scrutinize. You observe with the intent of figuring out why it is they are so messed up.
We also confuse understanding with ruminating and obsessing. When we try to understand ourselves, we start to dig up the past in order to find the root of our behaviors. We replay what's happened to us, how people have wronged us. Have you noticed these activities do not lead to the kind of understanding that fosters lasting change or loving connection?
Humanity has lots of history. We've had lots of past and lost of time to look back on the past and we still have very little understanding. We've also been using our logic for a while now, but haven't got much better at locating the sources of our internal human misery. We have only to look around to see that is true.
It is not so surprising there's no peace amongst nations, when you realize that we barely understand how to love people in our own households. Relationships are minefields of unsigned bargains, silent expectations and keenly tuned transgression antennae. I know. That's been me.
Our outer world mirrors our deep misunderstanding of ourselves as human beings. How could that happen?
I remember being very shocked the day my life completely broke down and realized I actually knew nothing, I had no clue whatsoever, how to create a truly loving relationship. The facts where obvious to me: I had a string of broken relationships behind me. Clearly I did not understand.
Then I asked myself, having spent time in therapy, and lots of time analyzing myself and others, what exactly was I failing to understand? Was I failing to understand others, or was I failing to understand myself?
If I could write the recipe for a happier life, I'd put in a big dose of the one most important ingredient there is; the one thing that is actually the most helpful thing you can ever have: understanding the human.
I want to suggest that if, in your life you are not operating to your fullest capacities, it can be very helpful to know where good ideas live.
- If your career, relationships, or projects tend to get derailed easily, it's helpful to understand where human resiliency is found.
- If the misbehavior of those around you gets under your skin and disturbs your peace of mind don't you agree it would be helpful to understand why it is you come unglued?
The other day I was reading an article that was making the strong argument that workplaces ARE, by nature, inherently stressful. The article was saying that offices have challenging things happening and stressed people in them (which is true) but then it asserted that although people have some internal control over stress, "the workplace itself is at the root of most employee stress."
Your own common sense will show you, if you seek to understand the roots of stress, that there is no stress living in "offices." There are chairs and desks and people. Other people exhibit stress, for sure, but it's not a virus. You can't catch it when they stress-sneeze on you.
In fact, you've had plenty of days when despite a hornet's nest of worried co-workers buzzing all around you, you maintained your equilibrium and were fine.
If you are going to deal with stress, tension and the often disturbed behaviors of others on a permanent basis aren't you curious to understand how you managed that day of resiliency -- when what we read indicates you shouldn't be able to? If outside things are causing inside reactions why are there exceptions? Understanding that seems to me like the answer to everything. The universal panacea.
Or would you rather keep trying to take the stress out of the office ...? Because, like world peace, we haven't really got a handle on that one yet either!
I only know of a handful of initiatives that have had true and lasting impact. And they all had one thing in common: They offered a greater understanding of how our own internal human systems work.
The Proof In The Pudding
This week I had the good fortune of spending some time with Don Donovan, one of the people working in the Three Principles Global Community and a former executive at a large military systems manufacturing corporation. Don brought Pransky and Associates into his division of the company to offer exactly this understanding to the people who worked there -- with tremendous results. In fact, every critical success factor the company measured to track the health of the business, elevated in direct correlation with the dissemination of this understanding.
As the understanding of the how human beings actually function became more common, not only did it change the workplace and business results, it also changed the families and communities in which employees lived.
As we were talking he said, "You know, George Pransky and I used to sometimes say that it's as if human potential were freeze-dried and this understanding works like pouring water onto it."
What do you say to that kind of understanding?
I talked about this in the radio show on January 27th, to listen, click here