When you are at a function and someone asks, “What do you do?” How does that make you feel? What goes through your head?
It’s not an easy question to answer because, often, when people ask it, they’re really asking, “What do you do for a living these days?” They are presuming that you some sort of paid work and your answer will help them define you by some sort of category and they may (subconsciously) judge you accordingly.
The problem is, how we spend our time each day often doesn’t fit into other people’s neatly defined categories. Parents who choose to stay at home with their children often find this question uncomfortable. So, too, might those who aren’t working in a job they like, who are looking for work or who are working in ways that are difficult to define, for example.
A better question that most of us would probably prefer to be asked is, “Who are you as a person?” “What interests you?” “What challenges you?” We want people to see us for who we really are, not just what our current situation says we are. Yet, there is a problem here as well. Many of us would have trouble describing ourselves clearly in a short, social conversation because we haven’t learned how to articulate our self-perception in a meaningful way.
Try it. Imagine you only have a few minutes to tell someone about the ‘real’ you. What words come to mind?
When Phil Nosworthy and Dr Angus Hervey gave their joint presentation The Art of Focus as part of Florence Guild’s speaker series, ’The Art of Focus’, Hervey asked the audience to try to define themselves by asking them 4 key questions:
- Where were you born? – Not just a place, but maybe an era or culture.
- Who are your parents? – Who raised you? Who were the key people who shaped your values and how did these influence you?
- What are you curious about? – What is the thing you’ve always sought more information about?
- How have all these things informed what you do today? – Can you use the answers you just gave to talk about what you are doing in your life right now?
He then asked them to use the answers they came up with to create a short narrative they can use to help paint a picture of their true selves.
As Hervey says, “The art of focus is understanding who you are, what you are doing, where you are going and understanding who you speaking to when we are talking about different issues.” Only when we know who we are deep down can we find what we are looking for in life. A lack of focus in these areas leads to procrastination, indecision, and emotional turmoil over decisions that have been made. Wouldn’t we rather reach the end of our lives feeling satisfied that we achieved the things we really wanted to do instead of regretting the things we didn’t do?
In their presentation, Nosworthy and Hervey shared more tools and questions you can ask yourself to help you learn to focus on what’s important to you. They don’t have the answers, but if you take up their challenge and learn to look for the meaning in your life, you’ll be much more assured about who you are when someone wants to get to know you.
This episode is the first in our 2018 series narrative, ‘The Art of Focus’ which is based on the premise that, in an information-dense society, our attention resources have become depleted. The series’ speakers will help us identify and explore the areas in our lives where we may need to regain focus, such as our sense of self, our understanding of what’s important, and our awareness of how we process emotions. Once we have more clarity about how we tick, we can better understand how others tick. This focused awareness helps to improve communication and cohesion with those around us, including our family, friends and colleagues, and customers.
Hear more of Phil Nosworthy and Dr Angus Hervey’s recorded conversation, The Art of Focus, by tuning in to episode 18 of our podcast series ‘The Art of Focus’. You can also keep up to date with conversations with other thought leaders by subscribing to our podcast on iTunes and Stitcher Radio.