This is the first in a series of lessons designed to help you find your verb. These lessons were prompted by a few readers who said to me, “hey, this Live Your Verb idea is inspiring, it’s good stuff – but how can I live my verb if I don’t know what it is? What’s my verb?” So if you aren’t sure what moves your soul, body or mind, follow along and find your verb… You can do it, I know you can.
“You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your @*&!*$# khakis.” – Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
You Are Not Your Job
If you walk up to any adult in a social setting and ask, “who are you?”, you’ll get a reply like these:
- “I’m Steve. I’m an accountant.”
- “Hello, I’m Jeff. I work in commercial real estate.”
- “Hi, I’m Kevin and I own a print shop.”
No, no, no. No.
That’s your profession.
When did our jobs become the defining factor by which we identify ourselves to other people? When did the essence of who we are get tied up in what we do all day, which, for most of us, is not the Thing That Lights Our Souls On Fire?
Was it when we realized that people judge us by our job titles and incomes? Was it when our dreams took a backseat to conformity and then slowly died? (Okay, I admit that was a bit unnecessarily dramatic. But I’m leaving it there because I need to be dramatic to get through to some of you. Moving on…)
Yes, we all know a lawyer who relishes the opportunity to smugly announce his vocation while he sips his gin and tonic. But most of us aren’t that guy – nor do we really want to be talking to that guy. Why? Because we can all see through his drivel. We know that what really revs his engines is making money and impressing people, not the law; the law is just what enables him to do those other things.
So. Here is one of the most important things you’ll ever hear: You are not your job.
I’ll say it again, because it bears repeating: You. Are. Not. Your. Job.
And even if you are one of the lucky few who get excited about work each day, you still aren’t your job. You’re Adam, who is passionate about photography and painting, who finds the art in even the most mundane pieces of architecture or sculpture. You’re Sarah, a chatty bookworm and shoe lover who was mothering everyone around her long before she became a mother in the biological sense. You’re Patricia, who loved ballet as a little girl and speaks with such articulation that your words sound like poetry…
Who Are You, Really?
When was the last time you asked yourself who you are? Not “what do I do?” or “what do I want to do?” Not “who do I want to be like?” But “who am I?”
I’ll go ahead and ask: Who are you?
I know, I know: this is a doozy to answer when you probably haven’t thought about it for a decade or two.
Let’s start simpler:
- What is it that you’re usually doing when you feel most like yourself?
- Who are you with when you feel most like yourself? What qualities does that person bring out that make you feel like you?
- What did you want to be when you were a little kid? (Notice I said “what,” not “who” – because a profession is a thing, not person.)
- What is most important to you in this life – money, love, recognition, legacy, achievement, faith?
If you answer these questions truthfully, you’ll get closer to figuring out who you are and what your verb is.
I’ll put myself out there, too: I’m Melissa. I’m an artist. I was first a dancer, then also a writer, and now I even try to dabble in mixed media when I’m not marketing by day. I like using my talents to connect with and help other people. That takes many forms, but it always boils down to creating something meaningful that will inspire or move someone else.
If, after some pondering, you know who you are – or you think you do – well, good for you. If you’re still struggling with it, that’s okay. Keep struggling. You wouldn’t be here reading this unless you already had a hunch that who you are is not the IT Manager, Event Planner or Fourth Grade Teacher. You are much more than that.
So who are you? You are a whole, complete person. You are a person who has ideas, strengths, passions and dreams that you haven’t explored in years – and it’s about time you started recognizing them so you can enjoy them, cultivate them and share them.
Figure out what all those things are. Roll them around in your head. And when you get brave enough, start rolling them along your tongue. The next time someone asks you who you are, tell them that you used to study dinosaurs but now you’re plotting the great American novel in your head, or that you are a ballerina at heart who makes jewelry out of repurposed materials. They might laugh at your response, sure – but they might also tell you something more meaningful about who they are than their job title. And then there you are, connecting and having a real conversation with another real person about who you really are, one step closer to finding and living your verbs.
Stay tuned for Lesson 2, which will tell you how thinking like a kid will get you into a whole new mindset about both yourself and life (monkey bars not included). In the meantime, I challenge you to tell me who you are below without mentioning anything about what you do.
If you liked this, why not share it?
Remember, share is a verb too.