I’m a business owner.
I’m a man.
I’m a son.
I’m a brother.
I’m a coach.
I’m a friend.
I’m a reader.
I’m a writer.
I’m a traveler.
I’m a human.
The list of titles and labels, never ending.
I use to think that my most important mission in life was to create and be identified with the best title.
For me, that took shape of my title in career. I will never forget the day, about four years ago, when, after much concerted and intentional effort, I landed my position as Director.
After all, that was what I wanted and aimed for since I had started my role four years prior to that. As an individual contributor, in a startup environment — my aim was to become director and manage a large piece of business. Growing and leading a large team as the core focus of the role.
Success. I made it.
Once the novelty of the new position wore off, I realized that the title and the meaning I assigned to it to encapsulate who I am, was hollow.
My team was important to me. Being in that position, I took the responsibility seriously in terms of the lives I was entrusted to support, as well as the business results I was appointed to create.
The problem was not the role or the company. The problem was how obsessed I was with, and lost in the identity I created around it.
I was not able to see myself beyond this title. As I settled into this new role, the poorly placed significance began to dawn on me as I realized that it, would not fulfill me like I once thought it would.
I operated under the assumption that once I arrived in my new title, there would be this sense of feeling whole and complete, that was blatantly absent upon arrival.
I liken it to the belief that the next romantic partner is the cure to what ails us. This incorrect assumption left me feeling confused, frustrated, and seeking for something more.
Seeking for something that went beyond title, that I could identify myself with. This led me down the path of becoming an executive leadership coach — and the subsequent training and countless hours spent afterwards.
In essence and hindsight, I began to identify with this new title in lieu of director. What I continue to realize again and again is that, often in life we can choose the titles and labels we take on, some we can not.
Either way, our relationship with them and what we make them mean about us is crucial.
It’s crucial to understand what they mean to us, why they are important — and it’s equally important to see who we are beyond them.
To see that we can be multiple titles and labels. Moving beyond that — there lies the knowing that those alone do not color the entire tapestry of who we are.
We are human beings that have an infinite capacity to decide how we define and label ourselves. Both to our benefit and detriment.
For many years I have fallen into the trap of being over identified with career titles, and not allowing myself to see me beyond that. I was blind to the additional titles that I wanted to be and explore living within.
Most importantly, I often forgot my own humanness. I spent so much time over committed to a title that I can forget to give myself compassion and patience when that always present human nature side expresses itself.
Be it on the level of the physical body — maybe I am sick, or I injured my wrist.
Be it on the level of mind — maybe I have backed myself into a mental corner and am confused/frustrated.
Be it on the level of spirit — maybe I am contemplating the meaning I want to create in my life and feel drained of energy to become clear.
To live a full life, an opportunity exists for us to create an interplay of each role we choose, each title we identify with, and to lean into the sensation of what and who we are without them.
It’s not easy to be mindful of the role or identity we are choosing at any given moment. And that is okay.
Maybe we are not choosing any in that moment.
Maybe we are showing up as a blank slate, and in the moment we are not identified with anything or as anyone. There is simply quiet.
There is space that allows new ideas and insights to come to us that likely would not have if we were caught up in another identity we have chosen or live from on a consistent basis.
A fun question that I have learned and continue to practice living into is…
Who do I want to be in THIS MOMENT right now?
For that past version of myself, with a broader understanding of Self and Life, I might have chosen to respond to a moment from the level of being a human, a director, a friend, a son, or be a complete empty slate to see what emerged.
That’s the beauty of identity. It’s not fixed. We are dynamic and evolving in every second.
With that gift, comes a lot of choice and freedom.