Agh, the question we all get asked time and again, as ubiquitous as stars in the sky, later followed and superseded by its sister question, “What do you do (for a living)? At first glance, it easily seems as mundane a question as it is a common one. After all, we all know the answer changes as easily as the direction of a leaf floating in the wind, and what’s more modern than wanting to have one career for the rest of your life, right?
Let me step back a moment and address the underlying and unspoken assumption in the question. Even though it asks what you or I want to be, we naturally infer that we are being asked what we want to do, almost unknowingly equating being and doing. But, are being and doing really the same thing?
Let’s take a look at some of the definitions of these words from the Webster’s 1913 dictionary:
“To perform, as an action; to execute; to transact to carry out in action.”
“To exist actually, or in the world of fact; to have existence.”
“To exist in a certain manner or relation…”
“To take place; to happen…”
“To signify; to represent or symbolize”
Treating being and doing with the same meaning does us a great disservice, especially in a society where it’s all too common, whether consciously or not, to tie self-worth, value, meaning, and happiness to our work, careers, and results – the actions we do. Not that making the same entwined connection with how we perceive ourselves as being in any given moment would do us any better. I’m fascinated by answering this query from the perspective of being.
Who do I want to Be?
For a large part of my life, and to some extent even now, I’ve attached my job, my career, and my actions to how I’ve viewed my own value. It has made my outlook over time much like a rollercoaster, all the while depending on my employment status, my role, my position, comparison, and other external factors that I have no control over, regardless of the influence I might have had. From my own experience, thinking and buying into this notion makes it easy to feel like a victim to circumstance, others, and life in general.
When I begin detaching what I do with who I am and what I want to be, the world begins opening up further and further to infinite possibilities. We are all gifted with existence from the start. We don’t need to sacrifice for it or prove our worth for it. It is inherently and undeniably ours no matter where we come from, how wealthy we are, what our beliefs are, and what our skin color or gender may be. Being is a blank slate, with which we can create over and over again. Similar to an etch-a-sketch, we can wipe away what we no longer want and start afresh. In fact, we don’t even need to start all over again from scratch each time. We have the ability to infinitely create at any moment who we are and how we are being in the world.
I often forget this myself. Between the barrage of conditioning we accumulate and getting tricked by our thinking, buying into what it tells us all too often, it can be quite hard at times to recognize and appreciate the power we have in every moment to create who we are being. Being, just like doing, is not a static destination we arrive at. Instead, like nature, the seasons, and the rotation of the earth, it is in a constant state of flux, a never-ending journey of creation – and destruction – progressing all the time. A single answer, just like a single target, doesn’t exist.
Wait, I Thought You Were Going to Answer the Question!
I want to surprise myself with who and how I am being. I want to learn to simply be more often rather than riding the hamster wheel of constantly doing incessantly. I’d love to drop all the preconceived notions of limits, capabilities, and the “way things are”. Rather, I relish all the opportunities to create who I am going forward. Granted, putting who I am, or going to be, into words is nearly impossible; however, there are some guiding lights along the way. I want to selflessly serve others, whether that be through coaching, teaching, or just being with them. I want to strive for meaning and fulfillment in everything I do, recognizing that we all make mistakes, and at least until our time is up, never forget that we have unlimited “re-dos”. I want to be challenged, growing, and changing in alignment with life. I want to be at home in the uncertainty and unknown, exploring new lives and possibilities I have yet to imagine or discover. I want to be in deep connection with people, full of understanding and compassion while void of judgment. I want to be a light and touch people’s lives with warmth, joy, peace, and inspiration.
I want to be love in human form.
One thought on “What do you want to be (when you grow up)?”
Beautifully written Chris- profound and simple at the same time!