Have you ever asked yourself the question? Have you ever surprised yourself by something you thought or did? Do you really know who you are?
Of course, we know our names, our histories and our preferences. And is that all that really makes who we are?
I have started teaching qualitative research methods again – with the wonderful Research Academy here in the UK – and have been reading on all the latest on behavioural economics. It’s all about the realisation – through research evidence – that we rarely make a choice deliberately and consciously and consider all the possible variables and changes in outcome…
Ouch, yeah, do you really know who you are and why you make the choices you make on a daily basis?
Of course, many of us think we know who we are, what we like, dislike, what we dream of, what we live for. And some of us don’t. And it’s often even more difficult to talk about who we are to others – try a bit of therapy and you’ll see how long it takes to really get confused about what you are saying about yourself…
I was recently invited by a very nice man to consider coaching him in his search for a “brand identity”. He works in the creative field so his “brand” is currently who he is. I had a lovely meeting with him and after an hour of exchanging thoughts and ideas, I clearly heard him express the wish that someone would listen to his story and just write-up who he is, for him to share with others. The thought completely stopped me in my tracks. Imagine, being given the expression of who you are, delivered on a plate. “This is who I am”… Wouldn’t life be full of clarity, and not so jammy with all that haze of uncertainty, that obsession with pondering and wondering. The what ifs. The maybes.
It is a guy called Adyashanti who first asked me that question. OK, he didn’t ask me personally, it was on one of his earlier recordings. Adyashanti is a meditation teacher in the Zen Buddhist tradition based in California. It was in his early days – he is pretty well known and revered now. I loved his simple, laid back and pragmatic directions to the route of enlightenment – after all, don’t we all meditate to maybe, one day, get on the road where everything is “light”? I don’t know.
And the question struck me of course as the most important one. What else matters in the very big picture of all things? Are we maybe not here to find out exactly that: who we really are and why we are here? Oops, I’ll stick to the first part of the question for now.
I treated myself to a walk through Selfridges in London this week. It had been a long time since I had been there. Sheets of water were steadily coming down outside, so it was time for a sheltered distraction. I thought I would wander to my favourite perfume maker – I did help develop a couple of their juices in my younger days and always blamed the work for being hooked on their range of flowery scents. And there it was again. The question. Staring at me.
I couldn’t help smiling. And the beautiful sales assistant started looking at me with inquisitive eyes, when I started taking that picture.
Who am I?
I am a little closer to a full answer than I have ever been before. And I am well aware that the answer cannot be, will not ever be definitive. I am surprising myself most days still. So, I completely get the new science of behavioural economics and the wish for someone to simply tell me what I should say to others when they ask me about myself… And yes, I guess that is why I meditate, to find out a little more about who I am, a little bit more every day.
So, do you really know who you are? Seriously.
Founder of To The Heart Research Consultancy