I have struggled with this question for a long time. New knowledge is always the popular one. Shiny & intriguing it always feels like progress when it appears. Even if we don’t understand all of what we hear or see for the first time.
Understanding on the other hand is, pretty much, the opposite. Resembling carbon monoxide, understanding is never obvious. Rarely examined, it hides like dirt in the night. And its accuracy is tenuous. Depending on what was just heard and who influences your life. Held prisoner by the stories we regularly make up to validate our thinking.
Modern life. Full of distractions. No time for detail. Modern life is the enemy of understanding. Full of noise, there is no quiet space for reflection.
Early in my life I would have chosen new knowledge as most important. But as I’ve aged, I’ve changed my mind. Understanding is, by and far, most important. And it’s not even close.
While new knowledge can propel you into new directions, it is powerless without context, perspective and self-awareness. How new knowledge fits into your life is critical for it to be leveraged productively.
Each of our lives is different. Yet the only place we can find context, perspective and self-awareness is through understanding. For each of us. No exceptions. Finding the honesty to push back on the stories we invented to make ourselves happy. To begin to understand more clearly who we are and what our lives are about can be a slow, possibly painful process.
The rewards, though, can be huge when taking this uncomfortable path. For once you begin to see the gaps in your life, your weaknesses, and more clearly understand your goals, the more powerful new knowledge becomes. Why? Because we better understand what new knowledge to look for.
Over time, as this targeted new knowledge builds and new understandings are discovered, things begin to happen in your life. Traction begins to become real.
This will only occur if you do things in the right order. Build your undertanding first, for it is most important in finding your context, perspective, and cultivating your self-awareness.
Then embrace new knowledge as the friend you really hoped it to be.