In the last couple of weeks, I have heard numerous times the saying that ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’. As a statement, it is very true indeed but I somehow find it unhelpful? The contexts in which it was mentioned were all different, but it gave me the impression that it was used as a reason why things weren’t the way they ‘should’.
I think my unease came from the fact I have heard this saying many times and it was often used as an excuse. Indeed, if you don’t know, you quite simply don’t know and nothing can be done about that. But in some situations, it feels like a cope out. As human beings, we are good at avoiding things that hurt or make us question our beliefs, actions or decisions, so our brain will mainly look for what it recognises. In other words, we will see what we want to see. Despite our acknowledgement of not knowing everything though, we often act like we do and believe that we know what we want.
Because of the way we filter and process information, we base what we think we would like on what we already know, then set our very own preconceived ideas and expectations in our mind. We forget about the impact society or people around us have on our thoughts and therefore start to have confused beliefs. After all, is what you want truly what you want? Or have you been conditioned to believe this?
This is true in all aspects of life but we rarely make a real distinction between wants and needs. I will not delve too deeply into the psychology of this but will quickly mention Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which is a theory and model of the human needs. It explains how we first look to have our core necessities met to survive and how, once we are fed and feeling fairly secure in our environment and life, we start to have beliefs about what we need next and are looking for.
A want is something that we desire or wish for where a need is something that is essential to us but we often don’t really know what we need and actually confuse the two.
I think one of the best examples to explain this would be the way most single people go about finding a partner. They have in their heads a long checklist of what they are looking for, a catalogue of what the person should look like, the kind of job they would have, their status, car, etc… and a list of basic qualities. Yet, when the right person comes along, they are more often than not completely different to what that list was.
And that is pretty much true for everything in life. We like to feel in control and we like to believe we know what we want but the truth is, we actually don’t know what we are looking for until we find it.
So, instead of using the unknown as an excuse for what we feel we either haven’t got or haven’t done ‘right’, I think it is worth remembering we either have results or we have reasons. Reasons why we don’t have results. Or in another word, excuses. As human beings, we like to remain in our comfort zone and we don’t really like change. To find whatever it is you want, open yourself up that little bit more to the world around you. Look fast what is familiar and comfortable to you. Some of what you think you want might actually be holding you back…