Risks and Benefits

Who were the important people in your life?  At this time of the year students and parents thank a lot of teachers for the positive impact on our lives. We often don’t realize that impact when the moment is happening, or even at graduation when we stop to say thank you. Often years or decades will pass before we come to know that impact. I’ll bet you can name a person or two from 10, 20 or 30 years ago who have had that lasting impact.

Important people are not always easy to recognize. Sometimes we know immediately that a person is important because they gave us a chance to take on a new project, introduced us to someone or gave us useful advice. We acted on the opportunity and it paid off. Sometimes, the importance of the individual takes a while to be recognized.

How did you become who you are? We all have opinions, philosophies about life, knowledge and behaviors that make us who we are. As much as we would like to believe it to be true, we were not born with all of the wisdom and habits were carry about and which make us the unique person that we are. We have interacted with tens of thousands of people in our lives, all from whom we have learned something. Can you tie your current day beliefs or ways of being back to their source? That source is likely something you were taught, told, heard, watched or read.  

Why do we do what we do? The willingness to “get to the source” of our knowledge, beliefs and behaviors has the potential to shake our foundations. Or this willingness to examine our source can strengthen the confidence in our knowledge, beliefs and behaviors. This is the risk and the benefit of asking big questions like, “Why do I do what I do?”, “Why do I have the opinions I hold?”, “How do I know what I believe is truth?”.

Asking ourselves the source of our opinions, philosophies and facts need not have life-changing consequences. Even in small moments, incidents or disagreements, asking ourselves the source of a belief, behavior or knowledge, is an opportunity to pause. The pause and the examination of the source can take us many places in our thoughts. “How appropriate is their advice to this situation?”, “What alternative opinions have I been given?”,  “Has this behavior always worked for me?”

Exploring these thoughts will have one of two possible outcomes. An examination of our sources may cause us to doubt ourselves and do something new–and potentially better. Or that examination may cause us to have increased confidence in our path forward. I don’t see any risk in either option.