How do we determine who we are?
When out at an event or social gathering, how often do you get asked ‘What do you for a living?” Social protocol dictates that we answer politely and engage in discussion about our primary role.
“I’m currently studying”, “I’m a stay at home Father”, “I work for a big four accounting firm” etc etc.
This is a typical way to get the ball rolling with somebody and learn a little bit more about each other, and also for some individuals its a great chance to express their excitement about their job, their position, company or role. For others, its a question that they would prefer not to respond to. For some people the last topic they want to chat about is their job. They may not be employed, or they might be working in a role where they are miserable or uninspired.
I also come across people who are high performers and have what others would view as a great job, yet they prefer not to discuss this either. They don’t do this out of politeness or discreteness, but often wave away a discussion about their role as if its a part of their life they really aren’t interested in.
There appears to be a trend here…it seems that some people with “amazing” roles seem to be just as unenthusiastic about their job as those who don’t have work or are “stuck” in dead-end work.
Fulfillment vs Achievement
Often this feeling is brought about by a lack of feeling fulfilled. A lack of “living out one’s true potential”. Achievement alone can be very empty if the accomplishments are carried out due to outside expectations that come at the expense of deep personal fulfillment.
William Broyles, Jr. wrote an interesting piece in Esquire, In it he described how empty “success” can be;
“Each morning I struggled into my suit picked up my briefcase, went to my glamorous job, and died a little. I was the editor in chief of Newsweek, a position that in the eyes of others had everything only it had nothing to do with me. I took little pleasure in running a large institution. I wanted personal achievement, not power. For me, success was more dangerous than failure; failure would have forced me to decide what I really wanted.
The only way out was to quit, but I hadn’t quit anything since I abandoned the track team in high school. I had also been a Marine in Vietnam, and Marines are trained to keep on charging up the hill, no matter what. But I had got up the hill; I just hated being there. I had climbed the wrong mountain, and the only thing to do was go down and climb another one. It was not easy: my writing went more slowly than I had expected, and my marriage fell apart.
I needed something but I wasn’t sure what. I knew I wanted to be tested, mentally and physically. I wanted to succeed, but by standards that were clear and concrete and not dependent on the opinion of others. I wanted the intensity and camaraderie of a dangerous enterprise. In an earlier time I might have gone west or to sea, but I had two children and a web of responsibilities”.
This man had power as well as reputation; things that often take a lifetime to achieve and which few will find. Yet all the success had little to do with who he really was. The expectations (or perceived expectations) from his outside world weren’t aligned with his internal preferences.
Personal Fulfillment & Authenticity
Being personally fulfilled can be linked closely to feeling authentic. Feeling authentic calls for being totally free to establish characteristics and ways of being that are internal preferences. When we feel accepted and allowed to be genuine, authenticity and self-confidence blossom.
One way that authenticity develops is when we work in a role that bring us happiness. Yet this can be difficult because from a young age we are often told what is acceptable as a role and what is not. Parents, family, school, community and culture shape our perception.
When we have to conform in order to be accepted by those around us, we can often wind up living out an unfulfilling life, acting in ways that are not “truly” ourselves and working in roles that can feel empty.
So ask yourself: ‘Who am I? and ‘What do I do?”
If you feel a conflict, then the above conversation might be relevant for you. How would you like to get some clear understandings regarding what your inherent preferences are?
What opportunities could open up for you if you become more aware of what your preferences are?
Part of my work here at Inner Compass is helping you to reconnect with those things in your life that fulfill you. I simply provide a safe and professional framework in which you can explore the questions such as ‘Who am I? and ‘What brings me fulfillment?’
By becoming more aware of the answers to these questions, you will be in a better position to make choices that can lead to experiencing a richer quality of life.
If you’d like to know more, get in touch.