Summary: Discovering who you are beyond your profession is uncomfortable but necessary. Learn about the challenges of finding identity post-career and the importance of aligning with your core values. Practical exercises provided to help you uncover your true self and choose a fulfilling career path. 4 Minute Read
A Journey of Rediscovery
The biggest questions and doubts I had after retiring from basketball were around:
IDENTITY – “Who am I outside of being an athlete?”
ABILITY – “What am I good at outside of playing basketball?”
My journey before choosing life coaching as my next path was not easy. The search for identity after leaving a long career behind has its own unique challenges. In many ways, and although I have chosen a new career, that search is still a very active pursuit for me.
How do you discover your true self, regardless of what you do for a living?
The work to uncover the answers can be extremely uncomfortable.
Think about it… You are trying to build something new, past your thirties, after doing only one things for your entire life previous to this point, diving vulnerably into uncharted waters, not really knowing what to expect. It sounds scary, doesn’t it?
Challenging times are the perfect teacher, sure, but that doesn’t mean the lessons will just show up magically in front of you. You have to put in the work to learn them. And that is exactly what I’ve been doing for the past three months with my coach.
I’m fully committed to digging as deep as I have ever dug before. Every week, I’m taking on the uncomfortable task of exploring the darkest corners of my deepest self, leaning into my fears and limiting beliefs, trying to accept them for what they are, hoping to come out stronger on the other side.
A Powerful Question
Now that you have the context, let me tell you about something that happened today. This morning, my daughter came up to me after breakfast and asked me a simple (yet powerful) question:
“Dad, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
My first thought was that the universe truly has a way of working in mysterious ways. How much of a coincidence is it that she would ask me that question, out of nowhere, right at a time when I’m searching for answers?
I took advantage of the opportunity and asked her a question back: “That is a great question, Elena. What do you see me as when I grow up?”
She said, “I see you as a good dad, a good cook, and good at games.”
Often, when adults ask kids about what they want to be when they grow up, they encourage them to pick a profession. Kids may say something like, “I want to be a pirate,” or “I want to be a mermaid.” Our response to them tends to be, “that is great, but what about a real profession, like a doctor or a nurse?”
Why do we do that?
My daughter’s genuine answer is a proven testament that kids, within their still untainted honesty and genuineness, see people as much more than what they do for a living.
The fact that she said “a good dad” first filled my heart, because that is what I want my legacy to be.
“A good cook” speaks to the fact that I have a passion for sharing the kitchen with those I love, and she sees that every time I cook for her.
“And good at games” may refer to my basketball past. Notice how she mentioned that aspect of myself last.
Sometimes, we get so caught up in superficial areas of our jobs or careers, stressing out over things that matter little to nothing in the big spectrum of life. I know I’m guilty of it, at times forgetting that what matters is always deeper.
You can be the best lawyer in the world. Are you also the best father you can be? You can be a renowned doctor. Are you also the best human you can be? Are you adding value to this world in your unique and authentic way?
In your search for identity and a new career path, it’s necessary to pick a destination. However, you should always keep in mind that no past or future career will ever define you.
Look deeper within yourself. What are your true core values? What are your strongest beliefs? What does the ideal world you envision look like?
We all need something bigger than ourselves that keeps us moving forward, and I am sorry to break it to you, but a job or career will never give you that.
As a basketball player, I felt that my purpose was never to just throw a ball inside a hoop. I saw my sports career as a platform to set an example for other people through hard work, perseverance, responsibility, and full dedication to a common goal with my team.
Being an athlete was always just a part of who I am, not everything I am.
I say this confidently now, but it took me years to understand this. And today, although I know I am more than just a basketball player, I’m still trying to figure out what that means for me, genuinely and authentically.
I share this to show you this is a process that takes time, patience, and a lot of work. In a way, and because we are ever-changing and evolving creatures, and because the world around us is constantly shifting, the search for your true self may be a never-ending pursuit.
And maybe that makes it our most relevant and meaningful task in this life – to be on a constant pursuit of our authentic best version.
This morning, Elena gave me some of the answers I have been looking for. I am “a dad, a cook, and I’m good at games.”
A Few Exercises to Try During Your Search for Answers
I encourage you to do some self-reflection next time you spend time alone with yourself. Try to answer these powerful questions:
What do I truly value in life?
Thinking about the people I admire, what common attributes characterize them?
If I could create one rule for everyone in the world to follow, what would that be?
If I was on my death bed with the people I love around me, what would be my last words to them?
How do I want people to talk about me when I’m not in the room?
Here are two simple exercises you can do to start uncovering your true self:
Make a list of all your titles (father, husband, son, caring, loving, moody, pessimistic, etc.)
Using your previous list, make another list with the titles you would want to keep, and add those that are not there and you would want to have.
Lastly, make a list with the titles that you do not want in your life.
Reflect on these lists and find practical ways to become more of what you want to become, and less of what you don’t want to be to be.
Find these three people in your life:
1. A family member.
2. An honest friend (someone who will keep it real with you).
3. A mentor (someone who influenced your career in a significant way).
Ask them the following questions:
1. How do you see me outside of my job/career?
2. What do you see as my strengths and weaknesses?
3. How do you see me making an impact in this world?
Reflect on their answers and what you think about yourself.
Do the answers align? If not, why?
These exercises can serve as great practical starting points to uncovering your true self, and choosing a job or career that align with whom you truly are.
If you need help finding the answers, please reach out. You can book a free call with me, and we can work to gain clarity around these topics.