Why your career is less important than you think

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As some of you may know, my grandpa passed away a few weeks ago.

Sitting in his memorial service, surrounded by the people he loved the most, hearing the minister and family members reminisce about my grandpa and his life, I had an intense moment of clarity.

All the memories that were shared about my grandpa that day centered around who he was as a person.

There were stories about his extreme generosity, his humor, his steady positivity, his hardworking spirit, his dedication to his family, his beliefs, values, and convictions.

People remembered him for his quick smile, his bear hugs, his unexpected gifts, his commitment to his church, his love of golf and car racing, and the way he started every conversation with a family member with, “Hello, I love you.”

Only one line of his eulogy mentioned his career as a salesman. That’s it.

And this was a man who loved working! He got a huge sense of purpose and pride from his career and its ability to provide for his family.

Yet, in the end, that was the least talked about aspect of who he was.

Viewed in that light, it’s wild to think of how much time and energy we all spend focusing on what we DO for a living, when in the end all that really matters is who we chose to BE in our lives.

BEING BEFORE DOING

One of my clients came to me because he’s been wanting a new job for a while now, but every time he looks at job postings or considers applying, he feels resistance creep in.

Obviously, as a coach, I asked some probing questions to see where the resistance was coming from, to figure out if it was just plain ol’ fear or something deeper.

Eventually he said:

“You know, I think the reason I’m feeling resistance is because I know that a new job isn’t going to make everything better. I want to first become the kind of person I want to be, and then find a job that suits that person. I just feel like, once I’m more of who I want to be, getting a job will be easy.”

I never stop being amazed by how freaking wise my clients are.

He’s dead right. Not only is focusing first on becoming the person you want to be the most efficient way to get what you want in life … I’d argue it’s the only way. At least the only sustainable way.

SO WE GOT DOWN TO THE BUSINESS OF BECOMING

I had him put a temporary hold on his job search and instead focus on the kind of person he wanted to be. Here are a few things he came up with:

  • I want to be the kind of person who walks into any room with confidence and poise and positivity.
  • I want to be patient and present with anyone I encounter in my daily life.
  • I want to be trustworthy — someone who can be relied on and taken at their word.
  • I want to be healthy and vibrant and more respectful of my physical body.
  • I want to be a good listener.
  • I want to be someone who has great ideas and can present them well.
  • I want to be someone who’s generous and service-oriented.

Once he had a mental picture of who he wanted to be in the world, he started finding ways to become that person.

He practiced patience and quality listening in every conversation, no matter how small the interaction. He carried around an idea notebook, to get in the habit of capturing ideas he has throughout the day. He prioritized exercise and started using a healthy meal delivery system.

And he got support, too, in the form of coaching, training, books, and podcasts to help him learn and hold him accountable.

EVERYTHING ELSE STARTED TO FALL INTO PLACE

The more he focused on being the person he wanted to be, the more pieces of his life started to fall into place.

He got asked to lead a new, exciting initiative at work.

He went from feeling lonely most of the time to turning down social invitations because he was too booked.

He healed a chronic health issue because of his newfound healthy habits.

Plus, he now finally has the confidence to apply for jobs, and he’s in the final interview stages for his dream job.

When you figure out who you want to BE first— and then focus on becoming that person — the things you want in life flow so much more easily to you.

You’re less focused on the specifics of what you’re doing because everything in your life simply becomes an arena in which to express the new version of yourself.

BECAUSE IN THE END, WHO REALLY CARES WHAT YOU DID?

We’re all so preoccupied with what we DO for a living — in fact, it’s usually the first question you’ll get asked when meeting someone new (Rachel and I are hoping to change that).

But remember: No one will be reading your résumé at your memorial service.

In the end, what you do for a living will be the least interesting and least remembered part of who you are.

It’s all about who you were along the way.

As a way of reminding yourself of what’s really important, I have a weird but very powerful exercise I want you to try.

WRITE YOUR OWN EULOGY

It doesn’t have to be as morbid as it sounds, I promise! In fact, I tried this exercise myself, and it was strangely uplifting.

So give it a shot! Write out your own eulogy based less on what you did to pay the bills during your life and more on who you want to be and the life you want to lead.

Here’s a snippet of what I came up with for myself:

Kristen was a bright light in the world who couldn’t help but lift people up and spread positivity whenever she went. She loved to laugh, and nearly always had a smile on her face. People were magnetically drawn to her, like boats drawn to a lighthouse.

She was deeply compassionate and loving — fiercely loyal to everyone in her life, and always available with an empathetic listening ear and wise words of advice. She also loved humanity and strongly believed that every person deserves love, support, and dignity. Her impact on the world was greater than she ever knew, and she helped and inspired countless people to change their lives for the better.

She preferred a slower pace of life, filling her time with the simple joys of nature, animals, quality time with loved ones, art, and good food. She spent her life seeking freedom, beauty, joy, connection, and ever deeper spiritual understanding, and found it in nearly everything she did.

So tell me, have you been stressing yourself out, trying to figure out what you want to DO in your career and life? Instead, ask yourself, “What kind of person do I want to be?” Then share your answer with me, in the comments!

WANT HELP WITH THIS?

Figuring out who you want to be in the world — and then actually sticking to it — can feel like a huge undertaking all on your own.

You don’t get extra points in life for going it alone and not asking for help … all you get is more angst, confusion, pressure, and loneliness.

So if you’d like some support in becoming the person you want to be in life, that’s a huge part of what we do in 1-on-1 coaching. If you’re considering working with us, now is a great time!

Check out our 1-on-1 coaching page and get on our calendar to chat about it, here.

Much Love,

Kristen (& Rachel)

10 Comments // ADD COMMENT

10 comments

  • Stephanie

    LOVE THIS! Sometimes we all need that reminder about who you are!

  • Hanna

    I want to be remembered as honest, brave, confident in herself, truthteller and extremely grateful for all the good things in her life. I want to have inspired women to not feel guilty but deserving and help people see the good in themselves. I want to be remembered as artistic and sensitive too.

    • Kristen Walker

      This is so beautiful, Hanna! I guarantee that you already embody all of those qualities. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  • Kat

    Beautiful…Made me realize that the person who we want to become can actually be manifested in many (or any) situations. It is not just in a particular job or career, but in any situation–even the seemingly mundane.

  • Joanna

    Sorry to hear about your grandfather. My condolences.

    I just wanted to mention that while this is probably true for most people, there are some who are defined through the work they did, especially to the broader public.

    Think of the scientists. Nobody really cares whether they were jerks (and so many of them really were!). As long as they made contribution to science, people will think they were the greatest. I meet a lot of people at the University, who define themselves through their research. Whether it’s right is not for me to judge, but for most of them their job is so important that they actually WANT to be remembered as a chemist/archaeologist/geologist or whatever. For academics, their jobs is often a part of themselves.

    • Kristen Walker

      Good point, Joanna! Yes, there are absolutely some people — scientists, academics, political leaders, celebrities, etc. — who ARE remembered by the public for what they did. Although I’m sure that the person’s closest family and friends still most deeply remember them for who they were, beyond what they did. I agree with you that there’s a blending of doing good work in the world, but also embodying the kind of person you want to be — and ideally we’ll all be remembered for both!

  • Maya

    Wow this is a great reminder and a great exercise to get to the heart of the issues we need to work on within ourselves. Thanks Kristen!

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