Living with Intention This Week (or, more pretentious blogging)

Last week we took a few deep breaths.  This week, let’s start learning …

Learn who you are.

That sounds easy, right?  Name, rank, serial number.  There you go.

Or not.

I’m not talking about what you do for a living, except in the rarest of instances.  If you’re the President of the United States, maybe a Supreme Court Justice, the Pope, perhaps, then yeah, who you are and what you get paid to do are kind of interchangeable.

But for the rest of us mere mortals, defining ourselves by the location of our desk is at best a cop-out, at worst a sad avoidance of what matters in life.

This week, I’m concentrating on who I it is that I am.  I’m asking you to do the same, to walk the path with me, again.

Socrates supposedly said the unexamined life is not worth living.  I don’t know how true that is (I know some pretty happy people who aren’t exactly honest with themselves, and you probably do as well), but I’m fairly certain it’s a good foundation for healthy living.

Often when people ask a question like this what they mean is, “who do you want to be?”  But that’s not what I’m saying here.  I’m saying learn who you are.  Today.  Now.  Not who you’ve been, where you came from, where you’re going, but who you are.

What drives what you do every day?  What matters to you?  What direction do your feet move in first thing every morning?  The answer might be positive, it might not be, but this isn’t the place for making value judgments.  It’s the place for honestly saying to yourself, “Here is where I am.  This is who I am.”

You may not be the same person in ten years – or one year – that you are today, but knowing who you are right now is going to help you get where you want to be.  Think of it as the beginning of a personal inventory.

When I ask myself that question it seems I define myself by my relationships.  Perhaps more specifically, by the responsibilities those relationships bring into play.  For me, fulfilling the responsibilities of my relationships gives me, well, fulfillment.

Allow me to elaborate:  I think the first thing I am is a dad. For most men – virtually all men – being a dad is one of those things that, once begun, will be part of your personal definition forever.  Even if you don’t take the obligation seriously, it will define you.  It’s going to be in the first line or two of your obituary, and your children will be, in some measure, defined by how seriously you take the job.

I take it seriously.  I embrace “dad” as part of my personal definition.

I’m a husband, which also defines who I am.  If you’re a spouse, that’s part of who you are, no way around it.  Sharing your life with someone changes you.  For some people that’s not necessarily a good thing, for others it’s heavenly.  I’m lucky – blessed – that it changes me (every day) for the better.

We’re all someone’s child, so to define myself as a son is not particularly unique.  For those, like me, who are “Juniors,” who share our fathers’ names, the connection is less escapable.  Many of my big choices in life have resulted from my being my father’s son, to the point that the designation, for good or ill, defines me to some degree.

Aside from those relationship/responsibility definitions, there are a few other things that are part of who I am.  I am an introvert – by which I mean I draw my energy from time spent alone or quietly with my wife.  Which is challenging, because, as you’ll recall above, I’m a dad.  So time alone to recharge, if you will, is at a premium.

I also draw energy from being creative, which for me, means writing.  Whether it’s a blog post or a work assignment, the times when I can really focus on writing are nothing less than  invigorating for me. Even when it’s “work,” it’s a pleasure.  With that in mind, I think it’s important to know that this is part of who I am.

On a less specific level, I can describe myself as a believer, for lack of a better word.  By which I mean I’m not one of those people who can go through life being entirely skeptical.  I need ideas and values on which to hang my hat.  Flowing from that description, I also need to promote and defend those ideas and values, so it’s fair, if not essential, to describe me as an advocate.

So there you have it.  I’ve worked pretty hard on thinking about who I am this week, and the best words I can use to describe me are, “dad,” “husband,” “son,” “introvert,” “writer,” “believer” and “advocate.”  I think that’s a pretty strong list of describers.  It’s not all there is of me, by any means, but really, it’s the bedrock of who I am.

The next question is, what do I do with that information?  Some of what I do with it is pretty obvious.  Knowing that I’m a father and husband, I’m going to make intentional choices that are consistent with taking care of my family.  But I’d do that without spending time thinking about “who I am.”

I make choices as a son without really thinking about it, because that’s 44 years of conditioning at work.  Or perhaps knowing where the responsibilities of that relationship tend to lead me, I can make more conscious decisions about whether or not I want to be led in those directions.

But the rest of the descriptors, used with intention, can lead me to choices that allow those characteristics to thrive.  And if I do that, life tends to be, well, healthier.

It’s been worthwhile to me to work on this this week.  I recommend it to you, and I’d love to hear what you come up with.  Post some answers in the comments as you feel comfortable, or send me an email.  Or  just keep it to yourself.  But do work on it.

It’s good for what ails ya.

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