What Do You Do?

And What Does Your Answer Say About Who You Are?

by Jordan Myska Allen, a lover of life and entrepreneur. He acts as a psychological, spiritual, and professional consultant and practices applied integral thinking.

I get this question a lot, especially when meeting new people or reconnecting with acquaintances: “What do you do?”

Innocuous, but for me utterly confusing. I could answer the question in so many ways. Right off the bat the following options pop to mind:

  • I could talk about the work I do (which is multi-faceted and therefore not a simple answer)

  • I could talk about what I do when I’m not working (which ranges from rock climbing to organizing and hosting community groups on spirituality and philosophy)

  • I could talk about my life goals (which I hope would be “removing the blocks to the awareness of love’s presence,” but is often more about making a positive contribution to the world and being recognized and rewarded for that contribution)

  • I could talk about my relationships (how enriching these are, my family, my love life, my best friends, my communities, my travels)

Usually when people ask this question they really mean “What do you do to earn a living?” Many people genuinely want to know. For others that is not what they are really interested in. They follow social conventions, but might prefer that I answer any of the following questions (which I often ask, sometimes to the person’s chagrin).

  • What do you do in your free time?

  • What’s your favorite thing to do?

  • What are you passionate about?

  • How do you define yourself?

  • What’s important to you?

  • What activities define who you are?

  • How do you spend the majority of your time?

  • What do you like that we might be able to connect over, and is there some way you or I can help the other person out in persuing our goals?

  • What are you life goals and ambitions?

  • What is your life story?

  • Are we similar enough, or different enough, to be friends?

Sometimes I ask a clarifying question: “What do you mean?” which confuses some people and excites others. Whether or not I answer the question “normally,” differently, or whether I ask this question usually depends on the context: how well I know the person, what the event is, how comfortable I am in the setting, how important it is for me to not “be weird,” (for example if my girlfriend is introducing me to her grandmother), any number of other factors.

The key for me is using the moment to be aware of myself and my need for a defining identity. Why is it important for me to present myself a certain way to a certain person? What fear or excitement comes up as a result of someone thinking about me in one way or another? Will I be unhappy if they do not perceive me the way I want to be seen?

By avoiding a predetermined answer, this question allows me to explore who I think I am in any given period of time, what I think is important, and how this related to my health and well-being.

Do you have an answer you are apt to give? What does that say about you? How might it be affecting your happiness?

Image: Some rights reserved by Life Mental Health

Category: Belief

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