Throughout his book Return on Character, author and character researcher Fred Kiel talks about the complexity of human development, the complexity of our interactions with others, and the complexity of creating a model to understand how we grow into the people and decision makers that we become. In the book, social science research is brought in to help describe human behaviors, but for Kiel the studies don’t fully explain who we are. He approaches the science and discoveries accepting that they explain aspects of our decisions, but he seems to have a belief that there often seems to be a disconnect between our experiences and the results of science. Hinting at the multidimensional context of our lives, Kiel suggests that we are too complex for all of our decisions and interactions to be explained by one general theory. Regarding research he writes,
“Ongoing research is helping us more fully understand the nature of who we are as human beings and how our basic human nature supports the genetic predispositions and life experiences that determine who we are as individuals. We can use these new findings to embrace a model of human nature that describes us as capable of becoming mature, complete individuals, not just self-focused rationalists—a model that supports organizational life in all its rich complexity and celebrates the deep and meaningful connection between who we are and what we do.”
Kiel is showing a shift in thinking about people and is looking at us from a perspective of individuals tied to a community with varying degrees of commitment and responsibility. He is showing that our research is beginning to accept human beings as more complex social beings with individual desires and motivations, which is not easily built together with one single model of humanity.
Understanding that there is not one model for how we relate to others and act during our lifetime seems to suggest that we have the power to shape ourselves and who we become by managing our reactions to the world around us and by understanding our social connections. Kiel supports the idea that we can change ourselves in relation to our society while at the same time our society and culture, especially our close relationships, can have an impact in changing our lives. Human behavior is not set in stone, and we have the power to shape our behavior and seek out cultures and environments that support the decisions and behaviors we desire.