There are key points in our lives when we ask the question what next? Sometimes this arises from unplanned changes in personal circumstances. Other times it’s the prompts of predictable events such as a New Year or significant birthdays. How we frame the question is as important as asking it. And I’m wondering if a better alternative is: who do you want to be?
Who not what
Our culture places a high value on what we do and what we gain from doing it. Success is bound up in external identity. If we don’t have a good answer to what do you do? – we somehow feel ‘less than’. As if we are wasting opportunities, or don’t have value.
But who is judging?
It used to be much easier to answer the ‘what’ question, but that didn’t make it right. Now the ‘what’s’ can be redundant very quickly. A box discarded, a title that’s out of date, a coat that no longer fits.
The future will not be inhabited by people with neat job descriptions. It will be shaped by those who play with the infinite plasticity of who they can uniquely become. Who embrace the journey of being their best selves, in all its dimensions.
Naturally, who do you want to be? feels much riskier than what do you want to do? But it is an infinitely more powerful, creative and expansive question if you can stay with it.
It also doesn’t have a ‘best before’ date. We can continue to develop who we are right up to the day we die.
Steps not goals
Having a clear sense of direction is important. We need this to function well, with a sense of purpose.
However, the kind of random goal setting that we often engage in at New Year doesn’t appear to have the same effect.
Instead, turning our ambitions for who we want to be into small steps that build into good habits, is far more fruitful.
We know that the discipline and willpower to make big changes ultimately fails over time if they are not embedded in the context of our life purpose. So investing in a structure, system or environment that enables us to move forward and build bridges to becoming who we want to be is the answer.
Daily enacting aspects of who we want to not only tone up our metaphorical muscles but also changes our perspective of who we are. Since May 2017 I have crafted a weekly reflection, painting with words and light from the valley. That’s over 25,000 words…
Who do you want to be? And what would it look like?
What small steps can you cultivate that would start to express this more fully in your life?
These regular ‘enactions’ do affect our expectation of ourselves and give us more confidence to walk forward to ‘becoming’.
Recently I came across the wise and practical insights of John Mashni. Initially, I was put off by the title “The only 3 ways to reinvent yourself in 2018” on Medium. But I am so glad I persisted!
Both his personal experience and the way he captures his insights really resonated with me. In the significant changes in my life, I can see all three types of intentional rediscovery at work. And if I’d been more aware at the time, perhaps I’d have found the transitions easier! “All reinvention requires change. But not all changes are a reinvention.”
1. Reactive reinvention
This is when an external event occurs and forces us to change. This isn’t a choice. What happens is irreversible. Often these are significant life events. Ultimately, the question is whether we take hold of the situation as an opportunity.
2. Proactive reinvention
This is where new trends emerge and we make a conscious choice to develop and change in order to make the most of the opportunity. This takes action. Intentional steps to move from where we are to who we could become. Often these are new areas, where there aren’t necessarily well-laid tracks. Are we open to exploration and cultivating curiosity?
3. Reflective reinvention
This comes from the stable of failure. What do we do when we fail? We can blame others, or the system or circumstances. Or we can choose to learn and change something about ourselves. This can only come from honest reflection and being prepared to do something about it.
Who do I want to be?
Not only is this the start of a new year, but personally it is also the confluence of other circumstances.
I sense that this is the big question for me to prayerfully reflect on. Yes, I might be able to tell you what I want, and need, to do in the next year. But that isn’t enough. Doing ‘stuff’ – even if more intentionally – won’t sustain me. It won’t make the difference.
This has to come from a greater sense of who I want to become, what fruit I want to cultivate, where I am prepared to prune. Who I need to connect with at a deeper level in order to be the change I want to see.
So who do you want to be?
PS I wanted to include the striking, if grainy, photo of Jac for this post because he has an amazing story of becoming. This picture was taken two years ago after he battled through a premature, complicated birth that left him with acute septicaemia. After a drip and not really rallying, we were ready with the Vet to put him to sleep when he suddenly decided that he wanted food… so we nursed him 2-hourly for days and then gave him protected care for 6 months plus, including sitting out with a sunshade in the paddock… He is now a strapping youngster with bags of personality and confidence, making his distinctive mark amongst the older boys. His fleece is remarkable and this year we used him as a stud for the first time. We look forward to seeing his offspring in the summer…