This Week in Intentional Living (2/20)

What do you do?

That one’s not an easy question.  It’s the question we all ask when we’re introduced.

And how do we normally answer?  With our job.  “I’m an accountant/teacher/lawyer/electrician/etc.”

Is that the right answer?

Maybe, maybe not.  That’s the point I want to make here.  What do you do? With your time, your talent, your treasure?

I don’t mean a list of everything you do from the time you get out of bed until you get back in, I mean if you took time to think about the question, how would you answer it?  Privately, in your most secure moment.

Is your job what you do?  That’s not a loaded question, there’s nothing wrong with it if your work is where your heart is.  As long as you’re honest with yourself about it.

Most of us aren’t particularly honest with ourselves about what we do.  The easy answer is usually “job,” but now and then I run across someone who gives a more thoughtful-sounding answer.  Usually that’s the result of having read an article ridiculing the “job” answer.

So let’s put the trite answer aside for now and figure this out.  Let’s understand what you do.  What I do.  I’ll start.

My career is in non-profit management and fundraising.  When I answer “fundraiser” people aren’t entirely sure what to do with it, because to some people fundraising means walking your kid door-to-door selling Girl Scout Cookies.  Which is ok, because it gives me a chance to talk about it.  And I like talking about it.

But I do a lot more than that.  For instance, I write this blog, which takes a fair bit of my time each week.  But I’m not just blog writer.

I spend quite a lot of time thinking and acting on healthier living and eating.  But that’s not what I do either.

If I responded “I’m a dad” or “I’m a husband,” that would be trite.  The truth is I spend more time and passion on those duties than all the others combined.  So maybe family is the answer.

“What do you do?”

“I’m a dad and a husband.”

Hmmm ….  Is the next question, “oh, how’s the job search going?”  Probably.

I’m not going to tell you that you and I are going to go redefine the practice of how we respond to that question socially.  We’re not.  Polite conversation is just that.  We are going to change how we think about it, however.  And that’s going to change how we act.

I’ll ask again, what do you do?  How can you better understand what you do?

Is your job/career/occupation worthy of being your “what you do?”  Whether it is or not, do you treat it that way?

Maybe your work – or mine – is what you (or I) do, and we just haven’t given it the intentional effort it deserves.  I know there are days I show up and go through the motions, and I’ll bet you do the same.  Imagine the work we could all produce if we gave our occupations our full effort.

Imagine the families we could produce if we gave parenting our full effort.

But we can’t give any one thing our full effort, can we?  At least most of us can’t.  What we can do is – as we’ve talked about before – be where we are and trust that by being completely intentional great things will happen.

The first step toward understanding what we do is just what we’re doing right now.  Thinking about it.  Living with intention.  Doing what we do.

This week make an intentional effort to do what you do.  Do your job.  With effort and intention.  Whatever you’re doing – cooking dinner, cleaning the house, volunteering, working … do it with intention.  Let yourself build an answer to the question, whether you share that answer with anyone else in polite conversation or not.

Understand what you do.  And do it.



2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Amy on February 21, 2012 at 8:45 pm



  2. ‘Shell here:

    Good thoughts Harvey. So, in answer to your question I’ll say:

    I’m a wife who loves her husband with everything I’ve got.
    I’m a stepmom of two beautiful boys who I love with all my heart.
    I’m a daughter to my parents and will do everything they ever need me to do for them.
    I’m a friend to many people and always have an ear and shoulder available.
    I’m a loving owner (Mom) of two wonderful pups that give me more than I give them.
    I’m a creative website designer who loves to help businesses and their owners
    I’m a Staples Copy & Print Center Associate who is loving her part time job.

    Thanks for giving me the opportunity to think about my answer. Something that everyone should do for themselves. Great post as usual!!


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