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Who Am I? ... and Why It Matters

Purposeful Wanderings - Bradford L. Glass - July 2024

Newsletter - 7.24
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“Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feet downwards through the mud and slush of opinion and tradition, and pride and prejudice, appearance and delusion, through the alluvium which covers the globe, through poetry and philosophy and religion, through church and state, through Paris and London, through New York and Boston and Concord, till we come to a hard bottom that rocks in place which we can call reality and say, ‘This is, and no mistake.’” – Thoreau  


What’s your experience with the question, “Who am I?” (never asked? thought about it? don’t care? came up empty? too woo-woo? … or perhaps … I am.)  “Who am I?” is a question – the question – that opens the path to living authentically. But it’s also one of life’s “big questions.” Those are questions that may appear to have an easy answer, but can be answered meaningfully only through contemplation, continual questioning, deeper inquiry. “Easy,” but deceptive, answers here may include I’m an engineer, or a teacher … or I’m a person of my word; I’m kind and respectful. Many stop here, seemingly content, but unknowingly settling for the same disillusionment that [may have] led them to entertain the question in the first place.  Yet they wonder why life still feels empty.


The “easy answer” approach scares me, not just because it doesn’t lead toWho am I?,” but because it leads away from it. Easy answers live outside us (with other people, status, jobs, social media). When we fall into the trap of identifying ourselves with this outer world (even thought it’s who we may believe we are), we stray even farther from our inner world, the home of who we really are. We are our own answers! We need to learn how to walk toward this, consciously, not away from it, unconsciously.


In one of his podcasts, Robert Gilbert focused on the significance of this question … restating it as: “What’s the reason for my journey?” (Or … Why am I here? Who am I here to BE? What does my life “want to become?”) That kind of deeper questioning. Reflection like this is a lifelong inquiry, not a quick fix. When we discover – then learn to identify ourselves with – this [sustainable] source of energy inside us (rather than the noise that lives all around us), we step onto the path of self-trust, meaning, personal freedom and peace.  But not until we do!


I didn’t start my journey with an intention to live authentically … or to be a coach … or to write two books … but to know my true self. My life path, books, writing and my coaching are by-products (meaningful ones, mind you) of that inquiry. The inquiry also led me to writing. For me, writing – about my thoughts, my story, my life, the world – is how I make sense – of my thoughts, my story, my life, the world. By exploring the trail of breadcrumbs of my life’s “facts & events” – challenges, joys, setbacks, achievements – I become aware of just how the countless little “threads” of me show up, over and over, in each of the stories. This helps me weave a fabric of who I am out of these “pieces of string too short to use” (the title of my next book – another [unintended] byproduct of the journey). I wouldn’t trade this self-reflective process for anything. It’s part of who I am – who I can’t not be. I know I’m on a path to my own truth here because there’s no longer “struggle” in my life, simply because I’m “being the [free] energy of who I am” … that’s already, and has always been, inside me.  (Challenges, yes; struggle, no.)


My reflection has led me to know myself as a curious questioner (about the whys and hows of life), a seeker of truth, and (as a result of that seeking) a creator of “systems of knowing” that can help others make sense of their worlds. The energy came from my making sense of my world and it goes to helping others make sense of theirs.


My hope is not just that you find my ideas/books/articles/coaching interesting, but that they ignite a spark … that lives inside you … that fuels a fire … that has always smoldered within you … that evokes the “Who am I?” in YOU … and draws you to your potential in this precious life. Once you find it, that fire will offer energy for a lifetime, sustain you through life’s challenges, support your living in this world, and offer meaning and joy you may “try so hard” to find somewhere else. Fueled by that fire, there’s no more trying, just being … being you. Plus … the self-trust you’ve built means you’ll never again waste your energy trying to be someone you’re not … or engage with those who think you should be. Hint: you don’t get here reading about it, but by experiencing it – see exercise.


Exercise: My answers are unique to me. Your path is unique to you. But the work to get there is the same: Ask big questions … and don’t settle for easy answers. Follow the threads of your life experience wherever they lead, and then re-imagine your life from the [seemingly unrelated] threads of what you discover. 


Name distinct phases in your life. This could include family, education, jobs, relationships, transitions. Instead of viewing your life path as a sequential timeline, look inside each phase, independent of others, asking yourself: Who was I always being? What was I always drawn to? What did I do or be whether I gained approval or not? What did I imagine or wonder? Look for places in your “always” stories that ran against conventional wisdom. (One of mine: my big questions didn’t stop until I knew why.) No quick/easy answers; go deeper; ask more. After you’ve done this for each aspect of your life, go back to your notes and see what you find in common across lists. These are clues to “the real you,” the you you may have lost in life’s pressure to conform. When you discover what you can’t not be/do (through this reflection and pattern matching), you find that piece of yourself that is so naturally you that you might not have previously recognized it as your own unique, deepest essence (soul, purpose).


Finding common threads isn’t about what “job” you might do, but about the inner source of energy you can’t help expressing. When you find a spark, go there. Just allow the mind wander in these places. When you hit on stuff that pulls you, you know it. If it makes sense, allow yourself to BE the energy you feel. (This is what “go with the flow” really means).  




Life Lessons from Nature: My deep connection with nature leaves me [naturally] asking “What would nature do here?” whenever I’m confronted with one of life’s inevitable challenges. I trust her answers. I realize I’m part of her model, not separate from it somehow … and have [mostly] stopped trying to fight it off in the determination to force something different/better. With quiet consistency, and often persistence, she reminds me to: to create, with intention; to live, with awareness; to act, with courage; to relate, with reverence … with myself, others.  See, nature doesn’t have to remember or ask who she is; she IS these things, and just keeps being them. All her majestic creations, all her mystery, and all her billions of years of experience … just from “being this process.” Creations come and go, yet the process that sustains them continues. What might our lives be like if we could live like this?




Book of the month:The Untethered Soul, by Michael Singer.I’ve suggested this book before, mainly because I love it.In a simple, yet elegant way, Singer shows how to free the mind of its constant, negative, life-limiting chatter, offering practical explanations as well as suggestions for letting go completely of the unconscious-but-committed belief in the insanity of the mind’s drama. His path leads you to your own deepest essence, your personal truth.


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