How We Choose to Define Ourselves

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Have you ever given it conscious thought?  Are you still working to answer life’s long question: Who am I?  Might you know, deep down, inside, but you’ve never admitted it?

For many of us, choosing how to define ourselves has proven elusive for longer than we’d like.  For me, clarity, true comfort even with who I am, only really came to light in recent years.  We’re not talking about being ‘corny.’  I’m sure you know what I mean.

Are you comfortable in your own skin, with who you are?

For a long time, I struggled with ‘who’ I was.  This was often a question I’d ask myself when between jobs.  The pain of the question laid bare by the fact that my identity had too often, been tied to the role I had held…or the company I worked for.  Each of us ‘knows’ we’re not a ‘project manager,’ or, ‘software developer.’  Neither are we ‘assembly technicians,’ or ‘vice president of…’.  Nor are we ‘Acme Corp.’ These are the companies, the titles that declare what we do, not: Who. We. Are.

Understand the distinction?

In my case, a few years ago I formally undertook an effort to understand ‘who’ I am, rather than what I do.  I do not know when, and have come to believe, that the process of determining who we are…never ends.  We evolve, we mature, life’s events continue to sharpen our focus, improve life’s tonal values, and accent the landscapes each of us are.

How do we choose to define ourselves?

Once upon a time, the answer may have been Support Lead, Global Projects Manager, Product Manager.  My mentors would chide me…no, no, not what do you do…who are you?

jtpedersen_321 Ignite_Autumn Leaves_Your Path

It has taken a long time. I came to realize that the answer needed not be the ‘perfect whatever.’  The answer is not to be the best whatever ‘to all.’  Nor is it to be the best at employing any one engineering, software, manufacturing, or creative tool in your profession.

I looked back over the previous 20 years and came to realize, basically, regardless of role or hierarchical position, I fix things, using my own insight, perspectives different than others’.  I enjoy the thrill of being immersed into new challenges, to create solutions, or to improve whatever lay in front of me.

Looking at what I do professionally, at what captures my interest personally, I came to realize: I am an artist, with a passion to create, to improve.

How do you define you?jtpedersen_321 Ignite_Define You_Hiking Path_Target

“I’m an artist, with a passion to create, to correct, to improve.”  What is your core theme?  My humble suggestion is, if you cannot state it in a single sentence, you are over-thinking the answer.

What is your core theme?

Interestingly, once you decide what is important, the importance of the tools falls by the side.  It is not important that you are an expert using Word or Pages.  An author writes a story.  He or she does it using whatever tools they personally prefer.  Theirs is the ability to craft a story, to be, to embody, the essence of being an author that is important.  No one cares if their preferred scribe is a pen, pencil, laptop, tablet, or crayon.

It is important to become comfortable with who you are and accept it.  For too long, I tried to be the ‘best to all,’ Worrying about those who didn’t like my work, and making adjustments to ‘me.’  My encouragement to you: Do not worry about those that don’t like your work–do not adjust–who you are.

Do not worry about those that don’t like your work–do not adjust–who you are.

You need to pick your own course.  Sooner or later, you will have to.  Early in life, it is easy to let yourself succumb to paths set by others.  Here’s what I mean: You go through primary and then secondary schools (paths set by others); then college and/or military service (with more paths set by others); get married, have kids, by a house, and have kids (paths commonly set by society, family); and then… The paths set by others come to an end.  Suddenly, you realize you must start creating your own new paths–anywhere.

The paths set by others come to an end.  Suddenly, you realize you must start creating your own new paths

jtpedersen_321 Ignite_Define You_Golden Path(2)You need to determine your direction.  Where you want to go. Otherwise, you will be a ship without a rudder.  Better yet, pick your fencepost, and start heading toward it.  Your path will change as life’s events unfold.  Having a set course will let you return to the proper heading.

Every day life can be dull, boring, something from which to escape.  Defining who you are, the direction you choose to take, is to put your head on the chopping block.  Someone will take a swing at you.  But without fear there can be no courage, and we all need courage in order to succeed.

Without fear there can be no courage, and we all need courage in order to succeed.

Choose to define you.  Take your next steps as you.  See where you will take yourself.

Image credit(s):
Wood Path – Miguel Saavedra
Golden Path – Andreas Krappweis
Hiking Path – Ivan Marn
Autumn Leaves