Living With Intention, Week Three

Be Who You Are.

Yeah, I know, you’re thinking, “Who the hell else am I supposed to be?”

At least I hope that’s what you’re thinking.

But being who you are is harder – a lot harder – than it sounds.  If you’re lucky enough to know who you are – as we talked about last week – you’ve taken the first step, but being that person, well, that’s a tall order.

Most of us grow up programmed to be who our parents want us to be.  Which is not to say most of our parents intended it that way, it’s just hard to parent any other way.  It only makes sense to imprint some of who you are on your kids, and it’s essentially impossible to prevent.

You’ll carry some of that imprinting with you all your life.  And that’s OK.  It’s part of what makes you, well, you.

But none of us can blame – or credit – that imprinting or modeling from our parents for most of who we are as grown-ups (And yes, if you’re working, providing for yourself and/or family, you’re a grown-up.  Sorry to have to break that news to you.).  There’s a point in life where you have to take responsibility for striking off on your own path, for good or ill.

I thought for a long time that I wanted to be a lawyer.  You know why I wanted to be a lawyer?  Because that’s what my parents wanted me to be.  If I were a reasonable person I’d have figured out in my early twenties that not only was that not in the cards, it simply didn’t suit me.  Instead, I made the passive decision to tread water throughout my twenties instead of pointing myself in a direction that fit who I am.

Almost by accident I found my way into professional fund-raising and non-profit management, which has fit me like a key in a lock.  Occupationally, vocationally, I am being who I am.  This may not be who I am five, ten years from now, but for now, yes, I’m spending my professional time wisely.  And I can’t tell you how good that feels.

I’m not only talking about your professional life, however.  And I’m not giving you permission to walk away from your day job because it’s not working out for you.  Ideally, you can get paid for doing something you love and spend your work life bringing both meaning and money to the rest of your life.  But unless you’re independently wealthy, keep that cash flow in the “on” position while you search for work that works better for you.

When I say “be who you are” I’m talking about more than a line on your resume or CV.  I mean that once you’ve taken the time to understand who you are, arrange your life to allow yourself to be that person.

For instance, as I’ve mentioned before, I am an introvert.  I get my energy from spending time alone, or quietly with my Lovely Wife.  I’m a smarter, friendlier, more capable, better person when I get an hour or so a day to just be – whether that’s reading, driving or just starting blankly at the TV.  I need that time.

I know that about myself, and if I go too many days without arranging my time accordingly, I’m predictably less-good at the things I do.

If you’re one of those people whose energy comes from working the crowd, you’d better build that into your schedule pretty regularly or your personal battery is going to run dry.

Being with my family is important to who I am.  I don’t travel for business a lot, but when I do, about two and a half days out, I literally don’t know what to do with myself without my Lovely Wife and the Sprightly Daughters.  So I plan accordingly and work not to schedule business trips that last longer than three days, four max.  Not because I’m trying to show everybody how good a Dad I am, but because I’m better when I can be with my family.

On long-term projects – like losing weight and gaining health – I find that I’m more able to get where I’m going if, yep, you guessed it, I write about it.  Turns out I need to think through what I’m doing by letting my thoughts flow through my keyboard.  Regularly.  Which is why I write this blog.

None of this is a get-out-of-jail-free card.  Yes, I’m more likely to lose weight if I have time to write this blog regularly.  But if there’s too much going on in my life to post updates for a week or so, I don’t get a free pass to gain weight.  It’s no reason to be less mindful of what I eat.

If I end up on a five-day work trip, it’s not OK to lose focus and not do my job as well on day five as I did on day one.

If Sprightly Daughter Number Three keeps us up all night and the book I’m reading doesn’t get opened for a week and I don’t get to watch King of the Hill reruns after everyone else goes to sleep for a few days, it’s not an excuse to be a less-attentive husband and father.

What must be done must still be done, even though things will get in the way of me being me.  Occasionally.

What I can promise you is that if you understand who you are and you intentionally arrange your life in a way that allows you to be that person in as many ways as possible, great things will happen.  For you and for the people around you.

Take a deep breath, think about who you are and work toward being that person.


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