THE BLOG
02/06/2012 04:37 pm ET Updated Apr 07, 2012

Four Elements of Human Process, Often Overlooked

Long observation and personal experience have taught me several lessons that apparently remain opaque to many people. Accordingly, perhaps there is benefit in spelling them out to bring the essentials to the attention of folks who might be interested.

Growth: We grow in many ways: physically, mentally and emotionally, for starters. Most growth occurs either on its own, organically, or through education. But the greatest agent of growth in life is change. Humans do indeed respond to change through adaptation. When things remain the same too long, many people grow complacent. A great piece of old wisdom is that good judgment is based on experience, because experience is based on bad judgment. (Or, in simpler terms, we learn by our mistakes.) One can draw many different conclusions from this idea, but the most important one to me is that if and when we want to grow (at any age), we must plan and organize change in our lives. I have observed among my oldest and best friends that the happiest and most interesting people are those who have had diversified and changing lives.

Understanding: Almost everyone has, at one time or another, had trouble understanding some subject. Typically, people who are motivated to conquer the subject read more and ask experts. If the subject is within one's normal range of comprehension (in my case, not astrophysics) and the expert seeking to explain has trouble helping, there is a tendency among most people to blame themselves for the failure. But, most people would be wrong. I have learned that under those circumstances, at least, the failure is more likely the result of one's choice of experts. Experts require two key skills to be effective: a solid understanding of the subject and an ability to explain it to audiences that lack expertise. Too often, the "experts" lack one or the other, sometimes both. The solution isn't to beat oneself up, but to find another expert.

What Others Think of You: Some people do not give a rat's petunia what other people think of them. Many, though, spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about how others see them. Ages ago a friend offered a great piece of advice to deal with this conundrum. He said, "If you only realized how much more time people spend thinking about themselves, you would rarely have to worry about what they are probably not thinking about you!"

Personal Accountability: Perhaps the stoutest support for keeping people in line and doing the right thing is personal accountability. Conversely, when people think they are invisible or unaccountable, they often stray from the right path. The consequences frequently begin with simple rudeness, for example, "Oh I didn't know that so-and-so was my best friend's friend. If I had, I wouldn't have done that!" But it can go as far as thinking that one can get lost in a crowd and slip away unnoticed from committing a crime. The lesson from this observation is that we must work hard on increasing personal accountability, even at the cost of some loss of privacy. This is a tricky juggling act but is at the root of much in our modern world.

Enough for today. I would be pleased to learn more on these and other related subjects from readers.

For more by Frank A. Weil, click here.

For more on emotional intelligence, click here.