Husband. Father. Son. Friend. Colleague (or boss). Wife. Mother. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Co-worker. I look at what it takes to succeed in the roles you play in life.
How many different roles do you have? Have you ever sat down and counted them? I did, and here are some of mine: business owner/entrepreneur. Woman. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Abolitionist. Boss. Patient. Client. Warrior. Instructor. Coach. Neighbor. Writer. Speaker. Brain injury survivor. Martial arts master. Author/writer. Ex-wife. Positivist.
I invite you to think about it for a second—how many roles do you have? And have you ever stopped to ask what it takes to succeed in your roles?
It’s important to get insight into what creates your idea of success in a role so that we don’t keep banging our heads against the wall and have to continually face learning through failures.
Each of our roles require certain qualities to be successful, or effective. To be an effective student there are certain things we have to do; becoming self-disciplined at attending class, doing homework as well as learning through our own best methods. Students might also find the need to play diplomacy games with teachers to help them succeed.
How you define success or effectiveness if entirely up to you; if you want to define success as being happy in a certain role, it might take a few attributes for you to get to the place where you consider yourself happy. It’s important to get insight into what creates your idea of success in each role so we don’t keep banging our heads against the wall and have to continually face learning through failure. We all come factory-made with a certain set of qualities, and some others we can develop by being trained or taught. Regardless of our unique strengths and weaknesses, it is our job to play out our roles as best we can.
And when you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. Don’t just set out to do a good job. If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. — Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Roles We’re Born Into
What happens when the qualities that help us become successful in one area aren’t the same ones needed in another role? What if they are the exact opposite?
We each have the roles we’re born into (human being, brother, sister, son, daughter, man, woman, etc). Then there are the roles we take on because we have a choice or find we resonate with the definition: being a student, a boss, a parent, a spouse, a lover, an employee, a partner, an entrepreneur, etc. These roles can also include defining ourselves as having a particular occupation or mission such as: a writer, a blogger, a chef, an advocate for a cause, practicing a type of spirituality or religion.
Then there are the roles with labels that we might take on, things we identify with. Survivor. Warrior. Political party definitions. Sports team fan. College graduate/team fan. Abolitionist of human slavery.
Each of these roles requires different qualities to be effective ane successful. And in life, our personalities reflect a combination—and if we do it well, an integration—of the various roles we embrace.
To be a good boss, there are any number of skills or qualities that we would want to acquire. Maybe you’d want to be a good listener, be a visionary, have an eye for strategy and the bottom line as well as care about your employees.
To be a good partner, think of the qualities that would help make that a successful role: caring, loving, patient, kind, boundaried, supportive, strong in character, open, communicative, self-aware, etc.
And to identify with the role of “survivor,” there are other sets of ideas we might imagine it takes; you might need resilience, grit, determination, and faith. And something to survive from, like a disease, or a situation (cancer, abuse, etc).
To be a modern day abolitionist means I raise awareness and fundraise for groups created to end human trafficking and modern day slavery like Made By Survivors and Durga Tree International. It means I speak about it, I write about it, and I actively participate in activities to eradicate it. Perhaps you have a cause or causes to which you’re committed.
If you aren’t sure what I mean, just think about running your intimate relationship like a business or treating your spouse like an employee.
But what happens when the qualities that help us become successful in one area aren’t the same qualities needed to be effective in another? If you aren’t sure what I mean, just think about running your intimate relationship like a business or treating your spouse like an employee. Or try bossing your friends around, see how that works for a day.
Or apply the qualities of being a survivor to being in any other role; sure you’d have the grit to “make it through,” but survivalist qualities are no way to live every area of life: you’d be in constant struggle or always surviving against something. It just sounds exhausting. And as a business owner I can tell you that having strong survival tendencies can be useful, but they aren’t always the best skills to apply when a particular aspect of your business just isn’t working. All the survival skills in the world are not going to turn that fitness DVD into a best-seller.
In a leadership training workshop for teens and adults, understanding the right role for the right situation was the topic we covered. One incredibly insightful teen, Holly, recapped it this way “as a high school senior I learned there are times that I won’t get along with a particular teacher, but to be a good student I may have to play along. Even if I don’t agree with what that teacher does or says, sometimes I have to play the role because I want the best grade I can get.”
How often do we try—and fail—to use qualities that work in one area in a different area where they aren’t appropriate? Have you ever seen someone incredibly successful in business but can’t seem to get their personal life under control? Or someone who is highly spiritual and wants to change the world but can’t get that business off the ground? Have you wondered how someone can be successful in one role and essentially not in another?
I would ask this question: what roles do you want to take on, and what qualities, values, or attributes are necessary for you to be successful and effective at that role? And if you don’t have those attributes, can you find a way to develop them?
Many of the people I’ve coached struggled in relationships because they didn’t understand what healthy relationships looked like, so they had a difficult time figuring out what they needed more or less of in themselves. How can you develop those ideal qualities for yourself when it’s unclear what works? It’s like describing snow to someone in Bali; you can talk about it, but experiencing it is something completely different.
A few years ago I was introduced to a network called Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) which offered business owners specific resources and training on qualities and skills they might be lacking; as well as a place to get support in their lives. The truth was I may have been doing a great job as a human being, but I realized I was far from a great business owner when I saw all the skills I was missing. EO turned out to be a great resource for me to help me grow.
What qualities do you require for each role you play in your life? Are there places you’re willing to admit you’re lacking? And would you be willing to go get coaching, training or support in how to be more of that and become more successful at the roles you’ve chosen to play?
Let me know. I am curious.