The usual game plan for life is to find the things you are good at and enjoy and do those things. Are you good with numbers? Does differential calculus get you excited? Great, then do something with math. The equation itself is pretty simple. When it comes to psychology, choices can be revealing.

There is another layer underneath your surface strengths that might give you important insights you can use to understand yourself better. We can learn a lot about ourselves by looking at the choices we didn’t make. The things we avoid might illuminate our weaknesses.

Let me give you an example of how psychology affects choices:

When I was in school, I always looked for courses that had papers or presentations as final exams. What does that say about me? It tells you that I am likely a lot more comfortable with talking or writing essays than taking a test or exam. In fact, in graduate school I wrote 67 pages for a four-question final paper. As someone who struggles with learning disabilities, I had to find my strengths in school and stick with them.

Now, I want you to think about my choice and what it says about my weaknesses. I am consciously putting myself in a position that avoids exams. Why? The truth is that exams make me incredibly nervous; I forget what I studied, and often get tripped up in the miniscule pieces of questions. You might ask, “Well, what good is that to know?” It tells you that I second guess my choices especially when I’m stressed, and that I overthink and overanalyze. In my world there are no simple answers. In fact, when I was little, I couldn’t be asked which stuffed animal I liked the most because I worried about hurting their feelings. See, that’s knowledge and knowledge is powerful.

If you take a look at the things you (or others) are avoiding you might learn something important that can help you understand yourself better.

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