People often ask young children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I have only heard a few ask, “Who do you want to be when you grow up?” These questions are vastly different. One identifies a label or job title. The other identifies character and legacy.
In Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, a caterpillar asks Alice, “Who are you?” causing her great confusion and consternation.
When we’re networking or in an interview, we’re often invited to “tell me about yourself.” This request has baffled more than a few people. We have been taught to describe who we are at work, describe the service we provide to others, give a quick elevator pitch.
All of these are right.
The question still comes down to “Who are you?” Not “who are you in a specific situation” or “what is your role?”
What would people say about you? How would your co-workers describe you?
I heard a poem many years ago that affects me to this day. It’s called The Dash. It was written by Linda Ellis. “The Dash” discusses how we live our lives between the birth date and the death date shown on our grave markers. The dash between the dates is all that passersby will know about us. That dash encompasses so much.
What do you want your dash to represent?
I recommend you read it at TheDashPoem.com* and consider how it feels to you. As you read the poem, did you feel sad, uplifted, encouraged, discouraged, pensive, inspired? Did it remind you of someone special or influential in your life?
In the United States, we just celebrated Memorial Day. Although Memorial Day was originally set aside as a national holiday to honor and respect military service members who have given their lives to protect our freedoms, our families, and our way of life, many of us use the day also to remember ALL who have influenced our lives during their lifetimes.
I have reflected on the poem “The Dash” many times in my lifetime. I have referenced it when talking to clients, friends, and new acquaintances. It helps me and others recognize that what we do with the dash makes a long-lasting difference.
As you know, I like to focus on strengths. The phrase “know, own, and build on your strengths” describes my approach to helping people reframe their past, rewrite their present, and redesign their future.
My challenge to readers today is to consider:
- How would your best friend describe you?
- How do you describe yourself when you’re by yourself thinking about who you are?
- How would you like people to describe you?
- How will you live your dash beginning today?
- How will you answer, “Who are you?” when asked out of the blue.
Recognize that your past has made you who you are. We can work to reframe the trials, heartaches, and sadness of the past and find both the strength you gained as a result and the strengths you developed in response.
Then, we can rewrite your present as you learn to use your strengths in new ways making it possible to redesign your future.
Your dash makes a difference.
Your story has impact and influence.
Not everything in your life in your past is a result of your choices. Your future, however, is a result of your choices. You can make it whatever you want it to be.
Please share with me how you want your dash to continue to play out. Who ARE you? Who will you become?
I also welcome stories of people who have influenced your life including those you remember specifically on Memorial Day.
*I didn’t reprint “The Dash” here because I want to be sure I don’t accidentally violate any copyright laws.