A new role at a company naturally brings about new responsibilities, and I’ve recently discovered that it can also bring about the awareness of personal characteristics you never knew you had. A few weeks ago, I sat down with my boss to discuss how my first month in my new role was going. We addressed specific objectives and outcomes, areas where I could improve a bit, and some natural capabilities he saw emerging from me thus far. During our conversation, he said something that really stuck with me – that my natural and innate curiosity was one of my greatest strengths. He elaborated, saying he’s noticed I possess an instinctive interest in the how and why things are the way they are. This was the first time anyone had ever pointed out that quality in myself; I certainly had never picked up on it personally. I thought about what he’d said for the rest of the afternoon – Was he right? Am I a naturally curious person? How is he able to tell, and can others see it too? Without realizing it, I was confirming exactly what my boss had picked up on. I am a naturally curious person. I began to wonder, what if we don’t know as much about ourselves as we think we do? How can we harness the power of what we don’t know?
We spend so much time and energy trying to figure out what we’re good at. It’s ingrained in our minds at an early age that we should determine our “path.” We navigate this maze, trying to identify our strengths and weaknesses, our likes and dislikes. We consult with friends and family, reach out to professionals, read books that will develop us professionally, and take countless personality assessments and fill out endless questionnaires. We do all of this, I would argue because we believe that this information will empower us to make informed decisions in our lives.
Don’t get me wrong, being armed with this kind of information is certainly beneficial when it comes to making important life choices, such as selecting a career. However, when we focus all of this time and energy on telling ourselves what we’re good at and what we like and dislike, it becomes a sort of inherent mantra that we can’t let go of. So, here’s the conclusion I’ve come to: What you do know about yourself can be an incredibly useful tool, but only if you also understand the importance of what you don’t know.
Tapping into what we don’t know about ourselves can help us re-envision what we bring to the table. If we limit ourselves to what we know, or what we think we know, we may miss out on natural aptitudes or interests. I’ve found this to be especially true in the professional world. Generally speaking, if I believe that I already know what I’m good at, I will rarely pursue opportunities or challenges at work that don’t cater to my strengths. Take my example: Until recently, I didn’t consider myself to be a naturally curious person. As a result, I didn’t take on assignments or responsibilities at work where that skill would be necessary or highly valued. See where I’m going with this? Admitting that there are many things I don’t yet know about myself allows me to evaluate important decisions, such as navigating my career, in a different light.
My goal is to stop relying on just what I know, especially in my professional life. I want to step back from the roadmap I’ve created, stop repeating the same mantra over and over, and open my mind to the possibility that everything I don’t know could foster invaluable learning moments. I’ll never know what I don’t know until I try this approach – and isn’t that kind of the whole point?