In the gap between what we say and our actions are defined our values, belief system, possible red lines and our personality. Psychologists, politicians, priests, lovers and spouses probably have a vested interest in getting to understand what it is that truly drive us.
The thing is, most times we don’t really know ourselves. We all believe we know who we are because we have an idea of who we should be. Yet, in The Social Media Mind I showed how studies demonstrate that our memories are subject to rewriting if we are led to believe our peers hold different memories to us about a particular, shared event.
Social lying, peer group pressure and the brain’s hardwiring to belong to a group and share in its common culture of values, beliefs, knowledge and memories conspire to create an elasticity in our morality that we should rightly find worrying.
Consider the following diagram below:
It’s a simple, brute force approach to pinpointing your personality by showing you whether you are consistent with who you think you are, are lying to yourself (and possibly others) or are simply confused.
What is evident is that the paths to confusion outweigh those of clarity (where you are either True to your nature or False).
Binary choices, you may argue, do not adequately reflect the complexity of the world which requires a nuanced shade of grey. That’s true enough but at the same time in an interesting (and somewhat shocking) experiment on morality researchers showed that we suffer from choice blindness in most cases. In addition attitude reversals are something we are either completely unaware of, or are sufficiently uncaring about (because we have not clarified who we are) for them to not register in our conscious thinking.
What Do We Stand For?
Many of us hardly know. Our identity is mostly given by friends, family, ethnicity, career choices, circumstances and, occasionally, plain dumb luck. Yet, within that context, we feel that we know who we are and would say that we have become the person people see. The gap between our perception and our reality creates a cognitive dissonance that seeps into every choice we make and every decision we take.
Is there a way around that? Looking inward is never easy. For a start it can be a dark, lonely place. Then we feel abandoned and vulnerable. And there is always the risk that what we may not like what we find. However, there is no other way to start.
Our true self is made up of three key elements:
Direction – Where are you really going in your life? If your every decision is a response to your environment you have zero control and zero sense of where you’re heading. You will be unable to visualize yourself a year, two years, three years down the line because each day is full of unknowns that derail you.
Desires – What do you really want to do before you die? Living is not enough. We all get to live. But few of us manage to make that life count sufficiently to leave a lasting mark.
Purpose – What do you feel is your purpose on this world? How do you work it out? How do you visualize it? What do you do to actually make it happen?
There are many smaller steps, choices and decisions that make up each of these key elements. Our daily choices are governed by the existence or absence of our sense of direction, for instance. Our desires color our attitude. Our purpose determines our actions.
Unless there is clarity inside your head about all this there will not be clarity in your actions, your life or your identity.
Action Plan: Become a better version of yourself.
And don’t forget to subscribe to the Daily Boost, brief snippets that help you chip away at the confusion that surrounds you.