Who You Are and What You Do

Is there a difference between who you are and what you do?

On some level, I think we all hope this is true.  And I would argue that there are clear distinctions.  However, it’s often portrayed in society that there is some magical way of demarcating these two realms of life.  At 5 o’clock, or whenever you get off work, your work life is supposed to cease and smoothly transition into your personal life.  That sounds great in theory, but it just doesn’t work that way.  This is especially true for people who can perform tasks remotely.  If you’re unhappy at work, your personal life is going to suffer for it, regardless of how great it might otherwise be.  In my opinion, the opposite is also true.

We spend a large portion of our waking hours doing work.  It seems to me that many people downplay the role of work in overall happiness and delay addressing this fundamental issue in favor of focusing on other personal issues.  Instead of tackling the career difficulties head on, painful as it may be, many people instead choose to focus on their next two week vacation. The idea of only being able to be your happy self for two weeks a year seems insane to me, yet it’s all too common. There are other aspects of life that can be altered to address this problem.

Acknowledging the reality that a big part of who you are personally is going to be affected by what you do professionally would thus seem paramount in life planning.


3 Comments on “Who You Are and What You Do”

  1. FFF Team says:

    To add to your thoughts, I believe that there is a clear distinction between WHAT you are and WHO you are. The WHAT has more to do with your career, relationships, and other ways you may define important aspects of your life. WHO you are has more to do with your character — your beliefs and values, intentions, behaviors, and impact.

    This is also a topic I write about.


  2. Koan says:

    Nice post, Greg. This is something I’ve wrestled with in the past, and still do, although less so. As with most things, it’s about finding a balance between the security and comfort that is provided by the “what” part of life, while resisting it enough so that it doesn’t take over the “who” part of life. In other words, I find that people who get value primarily from their job are generally not happy (e.g. all they look towards are those 2 week vacations).

  3. Greg Linster says:

    Thanks Koan! You make an excellent point about finding that balance.

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