Defining Who You Are

Monday, February 23, 2009

In business, it's important to know who you are.  I don't mean in the sense that you know what the core of your business is about, though that is fundamental and cannot be overlooked.  I mean that you know who you are as a person. 

I often ask people how they define themselves and the answers tend to invariably be the same: I'm a wedding planner.  No, that's your career.  Who are YOU?  I'm a mom, wife, daughter, sister.  No, that's your role in relation to your family.  Who are YOU?

My point is that we are multi-faceted people.  No one word can describe fully who we are, but I find that the vocabulary that most accurately defines a person has more to do with character than with the role they play or the hat they wear at any given hour. 

Here are some words that describe who I am at my core: I am loving, kind, generous and actively grateful.  So far, so good.  But let's face it: I am not that way all the time and to claim that I am would be a flat out lie.  To be more accurate, I would have to add that I constantly have to keep my selfishness in check, that I have a short fuse when I am tired and/or stressed out, and that I am particularly unsympathetic and impatient with what I perceive to be ego or ignorance in others.  Yes, who I am is a multi-faceted work in progress.

Hats and roles (mom, wife, wedding planner, entrepreneur, friend) can and will change and evolve depending on circumstance and seasons in life.  Who we are at our core should be consistent and we should work towards being someone we'd like to be around and someone we'd want our children or nieces and nephews to grow up to be.

Make a list of the values you want to exemplify in your life and that you want to drive how you react and respond to life's circumstances.  Then make a second list of the traits that may not be so pretty that still exist in your life.  Being aware of our vices can help us know when they are ruling our decisions, but pretending they don't exist or ignoring them is a surefire way to let those negative traits control your life and define who you are.

Choose one value from the first list and focus on that this week.  For me, it may be actively extending grace to others.  Since I am (painfully) aware of just how impatient I get with what I perceive to be ego in others, I will focus on being more gracious with those people this week.  This may mean having a bit more empathy, because puffed up pride is generally a sign of something deeper.  Maybe someone is reading their own headlines and talking non-stop about themselves and their "successes" on Twitter because of insecurity or a need to prove to a family member or friend that they can be successful and aren't wasting their time with their entrepreneurial dream.  When I think about it that way and try to see past the surface of what is frustrating me, my impatience dissipates and turns into a greater understanding (though not condonement) of their actions.

I recommend tackling one value at a time to help you focus and really notice the areas in your life where you can replace some of the vices with the virtues you want to define you.  When you focus on being a better person yourself, you'll find that the issues you have with everyone else fade in magnitude. 

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