Knowing Who You Are

Have you ever given thought to the question 'Who are you?' Clearly if someone asked me this question at a party I may retort that I am 'state my name'. My tendency may be in letting them know where I am from, the work that I do, and the things I am involved with. All of the typical responses that I may reply with would not even scratch the surface of who I am. My counterpart would most likely receive plenty of information on what occupies my time.

In leisurely discussions, this type of response is customary, its generally accepted and expected, and it can make for interesting conversation. In posing the question here, I am asking something much deeper. I am asking you to consider who you are regardless of what you do. I am asking you to look beneath the skin, to examine your soul and find out what fills your life with joy and excitement. To uncover what it is that makes you tick. This article discusses the importance of discovering who you are, and offers a simple tool for bringing your qualities and values to the forefront of your attention.

Why is this an important question?

There are millions of people around the world that don't take the time to consciously consider the question 'who am I'. In the 21st century, the average person has become busier and busier with work, household chores, driving the children to and from soccer practice, traveling, going to school, filling every minute not only because our life demands it, but also because we feel genuinely bored when we do not have activity packed into every moment of the day. If you've other read articles on this website in the past you've undoubtedly heard me say that we've shifted our lives from being to doing.

Now, many function just fine in this paradigm. However, in many cases people experience an unfortunate lack of depth and meaning as they passively accept what life hands out rather than actively creating a life in alignment with who they are. Collectively our level of fulfillment is inadequate. Knowing the answer to the question 'Who am I' is the foundation from which meaning in life sprouts. Determining this may give the spark to make fundamental changes in the structure of your life, or it may simply be the catalyst to view the actions you take in a different light.

Essential to our nature is leading a life that is congruent with who we are. This is where our passions lie, this is where our excitement is, and this is the life that will provide us with the greatest amount of success (most often personally and financially). The following tool can help you learn more about who you are on the inside.

Tool: Determining who you are on the inside

Step 1 - the 5 questions

Sit in a quiet place free of distractions. Have a pen and clean sheet of paper available. Ask yourself each of the following questions and write out a detailed response to each. Give yourself adequate time to respond - if the answers do not come quickly, take the time to consider the question and dig deep. This is meaningful work and these are big steps. If the timing is not right, take a break and do it at another time.

  • What brings me to tears because something touched my heart? (or maybe it was when you felt compelled to cry but you held back). Write down at least 5 examples of such situations.
  • What do I find exciting and fun? Again, write down 5 examples of the things you love to do.
  • Who inspires me to do my best at what I am doing? Write down 5 or more examples. What qualities do they bring out in me?
  • What do I appreciate the most in others? Write down 5 or more things that you truly admire.
  • What do I want to be remembered for when my days have been passed? Spend a few moments and reflect upon the perfect eulogy. Write down at least 5 key points.

Step 2 - the Interview

Now that you've answered the questions above, step outside of the deep soul searching and let yourself take a light breath of fresh air. You've taken a big step in uncovering who you are and now you are ready to have some fun with this.

Imagine that you are an employer looking for a new hire based on 'Who they are'. You have received a resume for an eligible candidate and you have been handed the sheet of paper that you have just created. Your job is to create a summary sheet for your co-workers listing all of the qualities you see on this resume. Remember, you have not met the applicant yet.

Go through each of the questions and answers above and list out the qualities you observe or can infer from what has been written on paper without giving the reasons why you've identified that quality. It may look something like this:

Qualities for the applicant (me):

  • caring
  • dedicated
  • reliable
  • values family
  • loving
  • capable
  • action oriented
  • humorous
  • tolerant
  • etc etc etc.

Step 3 - narrowing the list

As the hiring manager you have created a long list of qualities you feel this employee most likely has based on the resume provided. You are not certain of the qualities, but you are fairly confident your list is accurate. The president of the company decides that he'd personally like to oversee the process and has asked for a summary of each of the applicants. He tells you to go back and create a list of no more than 8 qualities for each employee such that he can review all the applicants quickly himself.

You know this wont be easy, but your job is to narrow the list. You can do this by combining similar values into one, or by creating a new value that best describes the grouping you've established.

There's one other thing you can do at this point, you can call the applicant, let them know what you've been doing, and ask them which best represents them. Together, the hiring manager and your true self can come up with the ideal list.

Completing the Process

The final list you develop is a blueprint of who you are on the inside. You've asked yourself difficult questions, you've called upon your inner guides to help bring clarity to the process, and you have established a short list of the qualities that hold the most meaning and value to you. Throughout this process you have not looked at what you do, you've been looking at who you are.

Become familiar with this list. Read it daily for a month. Use it as your guide, as a framework from which to make decisions. Use it as your map to align the actions you take with the person that you are.

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Be Well,

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