“Who are you?”
I mean it, really. Pause here and think about what your answer would be…
I routinely find my clients defining who they are based on what they do. When we’re coaching and I ask the million-dollar question, most often the answer is something like: “I’m a mom, a wife, a manager…” And I come back with, “Great, that’s what you do, but who are you…really?”
You are not your job. You are not what you do. Those are only pieces of the big-picture.
I know, I know–it can be a tough question to answer!
Trust me, I’ve been there. When Bill and I embarked on our professional coaching training over seven years ago, I’ll never forget our first class. There were about 20 of us, and our assignment was to get up out of our chairs and mingle with the other students in the room, asking each other: “Who are you?” And we were not allowed to talk about our jobs or professional roles.
Wanting to bail
This assignment made all of us want to run out of the room (as did much of our subsequent coaching training!). When my first partner asked me “Who are you?”, I nervously giggled and said, “Ummm, I DON’T KNOW!” Ha! Today I would argue that yes, I did know who I was (just the way everyone else knows who they are at their core), but back then I simply didn’t have the tools or the language to verbalize it, much less assert it confidently.
Similarly, when my clients struggle with this same question, I get it. And I feel their pain. Life is set-up so that it’s easy to get caught up in the busyness, and in the jobs we do and the myriad of roles we play. So it’s no wonder that we’re not sure how to answer the question.
The problem, though, is that if we don’t know who we are, it’s impossible to know what we want.
Therein lies the dilemma of how we’ve gotten trapped in a cycle of continuing to do what we’re doing because it’s comfortable and it’s what we know. The predicament is that the life we’ve created isn’t necessarily the one we want. But hey—it works, right? That is, if you’re willing to settle.
One of my favorite quotes is by Shakespeare: “Know thyself and to thine own self be true.”
The only way to be true to ourselves is to know who we are.
We actually start out knowing
Back in the beginning, we’re born into the world knowing who we are and what we want. In our purity as infants and young children, those answers are crystal clear. But along the way, that “knowing” has gotten covered up by messages we received growing up, beliefs we’ve taken on as true, things we feel we “should” be doing, patterns we’ve created along the way, etc.
The result is that the answers are often buried pretty deeply.
My job, as a Coach, is to help clear away the clutter and the junk that’s gotten in the way of that innate “knowing.” One of the cool exercises I lead clients through is called a “Life Purpose Statement” session. The end in mind is for clients to gain greater clarity on who they are at the core; who they’ve always been; who they’re meant to be. Through visualization exercises, a defining ‘statement’ begins to unfold, pointing toward their true north. What a powerful process to witness in my clients! And it’s incredibly freeing. I know, because my Coach led me through that exercise way back, too.
I never ask my clients or readers a question I’m not willing to answer myself. So who am I? The way I answer depends on the day and there are many different facets to my explanation. But today I’m going with this: I’m a lover of life in awe of the world around me. Here’s that core of me being “on purpose” and shining my light:
So. Who are YOU?
If you need a little help reflecting first, one good way of beginning to define who you are is to become clear on what brings you joy (and then, of course, honor and embrace those things, making them a priority). You might want to check out these posts that can help you further tap into what you love:
Brave enough to write your answer in the comments section below? Tell the world who you are! I can’t wait to meet you.
For those of you who’d like a little more focused attention on helping you claim back the clarity, the passion, and the momentum so you can finally start to make a change, let me know cuz that’s what I do at LifeShine!
Blessings to all of you on your journey.
P.S. For a great “part two” to this post, go here!