What Do You Look Like On Paper?

...and I'm not talking about your résumé or your investment portfolio. 

I'm talking about your personal portfolio.

What do you see when you look at yourself? I mean about how you look as a person, on paper. What makes you...YOU?

Can you write down the top 10 things that come to mind? 

What did you write? 

Personality traits? Activities? Possessions? Relationship to others?

That list can help you see how you think of yourself, especially if you're honest about what you think defines you.

Now, how about working out the percentage of time you spend supporting the descriptors you listed in any given week or month with associated activities?* (TV does not add to your quality of life.) 

Is how you spend your time in line with what you stated as what matters most in how you define yourself? If so, excellent. If not, why do you think there's a misalignment? Is it externally imposed? Internally imposed?

Looking at the pie from a different perspective, is there something missing? Do you feel you have sufficiently varied interests to be able to describe yourself in a way that doesn't make you sound exactly like any other person in your profession? (Hint: work and family definitions don't count towards this diversity). 

What's missing? What's your unique recipe?

You need more than the traditional definition.

What you do for a living and your position within a household can't be "it".

There's a need for each of us to have another part to our identity, something that we define for ourselves, exclusive of the influence others have on us. That can be a hobby, an educational pursuit—one that's not focused on furthering your career, a side hustle you love to work on, etc. It has to be a part of your identity that you and you alone define and feed with some of your time and resources. 

Of course, this identity can and does change over time as your interests change, but the satisfaction of working on something just for yourself is important in making us feel whole. It's also crucial in developing the ability to not define ourselves by our work and your family status alone. These things can and do change and they aren't entirely under our control. 

What you choose to add to the pie, however, is up to you and no one else. It's can also a big part of what determines a person's success in navigating through a planned or unplanned change: retirement, layoff, divorce, loss of a loved one, health crisis. 

Here's what my current pie looks like. Of course, it changes over time. Some wedges get bigger, others smaller but having many slices has served me well in working through unavoidable and desirable change.  

A diversity of roles and interests even helps with the present.

The lower the diversity in how you spend your time, and the less it fits with how you define yourself or want to define your future self, the more difficult it is to be happy in the present. I figured out (after the fact mind you) that having made a transition from a narrow career focus to a more varied focus over a period of approximately five years made me happier as a person on a day-to-day basis. 

I became someone who was better able to give to others and it made it easier to leave my full-time employment because my job didn't define me. I was able to displace the 50-60 hours a week I spent at work with other activities I found rewarding, along with the increased time I had for family and friends, which was terrific. There was barely a transition period, if any at all. I was grateful for how smooth it all went. 

I hope you take the opportunity to look at yourself "on paper". You might be as surprised as I was when I first tried it out for myself. 

I still take a mental tally now and again** to make sure that my interests and how I spend my time stays relatively broad. If nothing else, it makes life more interesting. 

What do you think of the concept of personal diversity? How do you define yourself?

*I document my activities using a colour-coded calendar. That way, I see how I spend my time by looking at the overall colours. It gives me a sense of whether I have balance or not, although my gut usually gives me a clue that I should take a look at what’s going on. When there’s too much of the external stuff going on and not enough of what else I value, I recalibrate. Within a day or two, I feel much better.

**I just did this this week. I was spending way too much time at the computer and on deliverables that were not feeding my creative side. I was starting to get less and less happy. I was starting to live in the future, planning my long list of “to do’s” and thinking “it will get better once I just get [fill in the blank] done. Then I decided some things had to go so that I could make room for what I know is important to me. I’m feeling like myself again.