What do you want to be when you grow up?  I remember getting my  kindergarten year book when I was 6 years old.  There was a page in the back that asked basic questions:  favorite color, favorite food, etc.  But the last question on the page was: What do you want to be when you grow up?

“What do you want to be” is a common question that is posed to children quite regularly. Think about it for a moment.  WHAT do you want to be?  Why is that we ask “what” instead of “who”?  Is what we do of greater importance than who we are?  Does the “what” define us more than the “who?”

Ultimately, the “what” describes our career, our job, our title, the work we do each day. It is a major part of our personal identity.  Because we have been asked as children “what” we want to be, we now go around defining ourselves by “what” we do.   Think about the last time you met someone.  You inevitably either asked or was asked “So what do you do?”  And if you were the one being asked, you then had to share that answer.  How did you feel when you had to share your “what?” Does the answer you give in these instances define you?  Does it represent you such that you are proud to share the answer?

For many people, the answer is yes; they love what they do each day.  And because our “what” is so tied to who we are, we have to be happy with our “what.”  It has to be fulfilling and we need to be passionate about it.  It is fundamentally why dead-end jobs are so detrimental to a person.  To feel as though you have reached the end of your career, your capacity, before you are ready to do so, is destructive to your self-image and worth.

Now comes the ultimate challenge.   If you aren’t happy, and you don’t like how your “what” is defining you, then there is the second definition of “what” that comes into play.  What do you do about it?  If you aren’t living out your life purpose, what do you do to change that?  You have to change your “what” to align with not just “what” you want to be but “who” you want to be.

Who do you want to be?  How do you get your career to align with that in order to truly ensure your professional life defines who you are?

For all of us, me included, what I do on a daily basis defines who I am; therefore, I have had to find my path.  I have had to determine both who and what I want to be in order to achieve my purpose.  For most of us, we want to be known as good leaders.  That is our “who.”  If I am a compassionate person, a servant leader who develops teams that care for the customer they serve, etc., then the “what” defines me in a way that I am proud to share with others because it fulfills who I want to be.  My title is not my personal “what.”  My “what” is how I lead, serve, and support each day that ultimately defines who I am.

Can you say the same?  Does your “who” align with your “what?”  Are you proud of your “what?”