How to Identify the Primary Roles in Your Life

4 years ago

"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"

"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.

"I don't much care where..." said Alice.

"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.

-from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland


"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.

"I don't much care where..." said Alice.

"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.

-from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland


Oh là là, wow. A bit mind blowing.  I am not a cat person, but he has a point.

There is value in creating a mental map of who we are and who aspire to become. It is effective to prioritize what is, and what is not, important to us.

In late August of 2012, I participated in a training class to teach the Leader in Me (an educational model based on The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People®). The class provided the final push to launch, my foray into blogging.

The instructor asked, "What do you want out of life?"

"I don't know. Happiness?" 

Inwardly, I was screaming leave me alone; I just want to be. I can't do this right now

Yet my brain was reeling. I want to know. I am proactive. And, my school signed up to teach the 7 Habits to ourselves and our students. 

I can do this.

My head scrambled and he continued, directly at me, "Where do you want to go in life?"

"I don't know," I stammered, "France? Whole Foods? The gym?"

I gauged his reaction - with a side peer. Ugh. I didn't get off that easily.
He lanced his coup de grâce"Who are you? And what is your mission statement?"

Uh oh. This isn't good. An abysmal sense of confusion and lack of clarity is where I land when asked to ponder life's purpose. How do I get from the vast unknown to the comfort of day-to-day intentional living?

I do believe knowing where you want to go is valid and critical. I am SUCH a planner. I plan embarrassingly far in advance. I have a yearly plan, a 5-year plan. I have a bucket list. Yet, when someone launches into mission-statement talk, I start packing. Too intense. Too much. As much as I plan, I ultimately am for the journey over the destination - for savoring the now.

When I start to question "what is my purpose?," my chest tightens, my brain blocks, and I instinctually reach for the jumbo bag of Pirates Booty.

Semi saved by the bell, the instructor asked us to write our mission statement.

So, I started.

Who am I?

I'm not always sure. I'm Rudey! I am a mother, a wife, a French teacher, a friend, a sister, a word junkie, a dreamer, a Barbie player, a runner, a talker. I have countless roles - pharmacist, nutritionist, housekeeper, financial analyst, cheerleader, social chair, therapist, chauffeur, teacher.

Who am I?

Instead of lobbing through my brain, I decided to approach the speaker privately: "I have so so many goals, that I often get scattered. How do I do it all?"

His advice was straight forward: “What are your roles in life?"

"I don't know. I have like 17."

He narrowed my path. "Okay, but what roles are the most important to you ... which ones define you? Choose no more than seven, and try to integrate them."

I can do that. Some of these roles will change, bien sûr. Others will be life-long.

Who am I now? Today...   Caps For Sale

I am a mother.

I am a wife.

I am a woman.

I am a friend (a sister, a daughter).

I am a teacher.

I am an artist.

I am a francophile (a language lover, a traveler).

Honing in on my primary roles keeps balance in my life.

Weekly, I identify the big rocks (action items and areas of focus) for each of my roles. The practice of selecting my big rocks encourages me to put my first things first, e.g. relationships.

Creating weekly goals aids me tremendously. I find a quiet(ish) spot on Sundays and design my week, based on my roles and my goals for the roles. The process takes me about 20 minutes.

The blueprint provides enormous focus for the upcoming week and guides my day-to-day decisions. The roles help me design my life, instead of it rolling over me.

My goals are really simple, actually. An example: Mother: Spend 10 minutes with each daughter (individually) at the start of their day, letting them lead.

I save the document entitled, "My Roles"  on my computer, for gentle modification the next week. I monitor my progress weekly - adding, adapting and maintaining. Many weeks, I keep the same goal. For example: Woman: Say nightly gratitudes and take at least one bath. Both are mainstays on my list.

It is my hope that success in one area is not because of compensation or failure in another. But sometimes it is, and I re-align.

Focusing on my weekly priorities allots me flexibility. This practice enables me to juggle unanticipated events with more finesse, to adapt schedules without panic and to savor relationships in the moment.  Even if I get off track - sometimes WAY off track - I know that I have intentionally organized my week, aiming to accomplish big rocks in every role of my life.

And ultimately, the softer, albeit focused, prioritization clarifies purpose.

So I can breathe normally again.

Practice: What primary roles do you play in your life? Grab a sheet of scratch paper, or your computer. Find a writing nook (or an empty chair at a cluttered table) to identify and write up to seven key roles. Then set a weekly goal for each role. Just one. What are the action items? What are the challenges? What can you do to meet those challenges? Can you integrate any roles? What is your focus?

Is this a flawless system? Goodness, no. There are bumps and snares, distractions and countless interruptions. But my method provides a compass. Knowing and managing my primary roles is powerful. I am more Zen, more effective, more integrated and more fun.

My aim is to live mindfully with an inescapable twist of Rudey. What does that mean? Read on if you dare. Enter Rudey's Room. Things are quirky, things may be a little off beat, but you'll adjust. I certainly am.

Ciao for now.


 If you liked what you read, like me on Facebook at Rudeysroom and follow along. Xo. 

 I write about stumbling into balancing roots and wings. 

 My driving force comes from my mom, who always said: "I gave you roots to guide you and wings so you can fly." I've built my life around that motto. My aim is to pass on to my daughters what my family secured in me.

 I want us to slow down, grow roots, and build a solid foundation. I also want to strengthen our wings and soar.

It's a balance between holding on and letting go, between planning and being. 


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