Quite a few years ago I was going through a process to become certified to use an assessment in my coaching practice. One of the questions that was asked of me in the process really stumped me. It was this seemingly simple question: “What are your roles in life?” Think about that for a moment before you read on… how do you answer that question? What are your roles in life? Go on, think about it, really think about it! I’ll wait…
I’ve been asking this question, “what are your primary roles in life?’ of quite a few people recently. The question is often met with, “What do you mean?” or “Could you give me an example?” Sure, I could give a ton of examples; however, that defeats the purpose and may skew the answer. Once in a while somebody rattles off a few of their important roles, “parent, friend, spouse, employee, etc…” and then asks, “Is that what you mean?” Sure, if those are your roles, then that is indeed what I mean!
What defines you
Do your titles and roles define you? For many people they do. Think about it for a minute, we all know people who get so wrapped up in a title or role, they may not even recognize their own passions and probably haven’t pursued many of their own dreams. Two examples I’ve seen over and over again throughout the years are:
- The executive who spent 30 years working on his career, who worked 10-12 hours a day 6 or 7 days a week, suddenly retires and feels like his life is over because he never developed himself outside of being an executive.
- The stay-at-home mom who spent years focused on her children. What happens when the kids head off for college, careers and families of their own? Often, mom is suddenly very out of sorts because her role has drastically changed and she isn’t even sure what her passions or dreams are outside of raising her children.
I remember back in my college days, a good friend believed her “role” was to be a student and that was very much how she defined herself. She was satisfied with being a good student and doing well in school. After all, don’t most people want to be good at what they do? I, on the other hand, didn’t define myself as a student. I was a tennis instructor, a bartender, a gymnastics coach, and a singer who was going to school to learn, grow, and develop.
Who do you want to be when you grow up?
Discussing this question about roles in life, a friend said, “If you asked me in my teens what the difference was between teens and adults, I would have said adults earn a living. Now as an adult, I realize that’s only a half truth. Earning a living is a very small part of what I do as an adult. I also have hobbies, passions, and dreams to pursue.” Many adults, even today, ask kids, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Maybe we should be asking “Who do you want to be when you grow up.” Answering that question as a teen or young adult, might help people on the path of developing what they want to be. Once we know who we are, it’s easier to figure what our primary life roles are. Thus, it becomes easier to answer the question, “what are your primary life roles?”
Do you think Shakespeare was diligently trying to become an amazing author? Surely, that was a benefit yet many of said he was simply having fun fulfilling his passion – writing.
This month’s challenge is to spend some time examining and reflecting on the following questions: Are you so wrapped up in a title that you lose sight of all that is important to you? Strip away the titles and roles you give yourself, what is left? Who are you? What are you all about?