When we ask the question “Who am I?”, it begs the follow up query “Who do I want to be?” with a gap analysis and, hopefully, a plan to close the gap. Otherwise, why bother? Just keep describing yourself to people you meet by your job, age, family and/or sports interests. That fills in the empty space enough. Or does it?
A wise friend suggested a rephrasing the second question to ask “What do I want to be known for?” This can help get at the underlying descriptors and values that make you different than every other late 30′s / HR Consultant / new mother / triathlete (fill in your own details). Sure, this describes me (or you), but how does it set a path of improvement? What adjectives do you want to be known for, if you strip away the easy labels?
Here’s what I came up with a couple months ago:
So what’s the next step?
Next, I’d like to consolidate the laundry list into a more memorable and easier to communicate 2-3 line elevator pitch. Maybe, say, that I’d like to be known as a values-driven pragmatist with a heightened awareness of systems interactions involving people and data. I set myself apart through a balance of rapid analytical abilities combined with astute intuition and a firm determination to remain consistent with my principles while retaining a discipline of efficiency. Upon further reflection, I’d like to add that I wish to be known as a role model, enabler and encourager others’ personal development without any personal need to judge or force an outcome that an individual is not ready for or does not desire. Or something like that. That statement could probably use some work, but you get the picture. See how different this is from HR Consultant / new mother / late 30′s / triathlete?
So now I have some goal statements with specific descriptors. Now I can create a path to this end with a “training plan.” As with any training plan, I develop a program of systematic stretch assignments in my main limiters between current state and desired state. I also have a handy three-sentence guide for my day to day decisions of how to spend my time, what to read, what to say, what to think, etc. I know what I want to be consistent to. Consistency breeds habit which defines how other people view us. So that’s what I want to do.
This is a pretty good exercise if you notice a disparity between who you think you are now and what you want to be known for by others. Of course, we do a lot of this intuitively, but it’s like the difference between preparing for a race willy nilly and having a structured training plan to get you there. That which is measured improves, as they say, and it’s a good idea to know what you’re measuring if you want to have any idea if you’ve been successful.