Who Do You Want to Be?

Behind the mask

What do you want to be?

It’s a question posed to children, usually followed by when you grow up.

As a child, I answered the question, like so many of you, with innocence and optimism. We wanted to be astronauts, explorers, firefighters, doctors, lawyers, rock stars, or even princesses and wizards.

The question elicits an answer that’s driven by one thing: action. The main idea is: we become what we do.

As we get older, the question changes a tiny bit, but the intention behind it remains the same.

Instead of what do you want to be, it’s what do you want to do with the rest of your life? Again, the question is all about doing.

Adults have goals, resolutions, desires, and targets that are mostly driven by wanting to feel accomplished. It seems the focus on doing gets stronger as we grow older.

Where does all the doing take us? Does it make us happy?

One can say that doing takes us places, teaches us lessons, earns us money, and gets us to meet and interact with others.

There is nothing wrong with the results. But what’s next? Is it more of the same?

So we visited different places, gathered a few experiences, made money, and met others. Now what?

What’s behind all the doing?

We’re often so driven by the expectations of achievement that we don’t stop and look at the reason behind all the doing we want to experience. And that comes at a price.

We either do what we said we’d do and feel great for a short while (before we start thinking and worrying about what’s next). Or we fall short on achievement and feel crappy for a long while (continuing to beat ourselves up and questioning our own worth).

If we look deeper, all the doing, and all the results, are meant to give us certain feelings of satisfaction and happiness … of value and significance.

Doing to achieve the feelings means that if we don’t do these things, we won’t feel this way.

Our social system of deriving value by doing doesn’t really work that well. It’s why a lot of us have self-worth and confidence issues. And hence, the constant need for validation and reassurance.

Ignoring societal pressure, and ego driven expectations, if we look at our most inner motivations, we realize that behind all the questions and answers, there is a much deeper desire not to do something, but to be someone.

So the better question becomes:

Who do you want to be?

If I asked: Who are you? How would you answer the question?

We associate _who _with identity—the markers that uniquely label us to ourselves and the rest of the world: name, date of birth, family, citizenship, education, and all sorts of data.

We tend to define ourselves based on external criteria. But the truth of who you are is much more than that.

The essence of who you are cannot be measured by a bunch of dates, or numbers, or achievements and failures.

Our actions can show part of who we are—but only if they’re aligned with our truth.

Our truth is based on what we deem as the qualities and values we want to live by—not what car we drive, or what neighborhood we live in.

So, who do you want to be?

  • Do you want to be a millionaire, or do you want to be giving and generous?
  • Do you want to be inspiring, or famous?
  • Do you want to be a success, or do you want to be free to express yourself?

The things that truly matter to us are internal qualities that give us the deepest satisfaction—especially when we live by them.

Who we are is about being, not appearances, and doing.

Being kind, loving, generous, inspiring, peaceful, easy going, caring, joyous, truthful, authentic, honest, compassionate, empathetic, giving, attentive, and many other qualities are the things that matter.

If it helps, think of an epitaph that describes who you are in a few words. What would those words be?

When we know who we want to be, we become clearer about what we truly want to do. And our actions, by extension, become an expression of who we are, without much regard for ego or expectations.

Instead of resolutions that we may or may not stick to, instead of focusing on what we should be doing, let’s focus on who we want to be.

Who you want to be is something that you can choose right now.

If you choose to be a kind person, then envision yourself being kind, and act with that thought in mind. If fears and resistance creep up and cast doubt on who you want to be, feel the emotions and then let go, and be kind anyway.

If you want to be giving and generous, you can start giving right now. Even if you don’t have money, you can give your time, your experience and talents, and, more importantly, your attention.

You are greater than the sum of your actions and experiences, your successes and failures and what others think of you. You are the one who determines who you are.

You have within you all the ability to be who you want to be. It’s a matter of conscious choice. So take off all the masks of doing, and embrace being.