When I talked about Purpose in a recent post, there was a lot of discussion about what or how we define ourselves. I believe the key is the relationship between who we are, why we are, and what we are because it’s multifaceted, i.e. these three components are all interconnected and influence one another at different times in our lives.
Who we are” naturally refers to our sense of identity. A combination of our genetic makeup, our experiences including parenting and the cultural and societal influences around us forms our sense of identity. These help form our beliefs, values, and characteristics which make us unique individuals. Our sense of identity is constantly strengthening, as we gain new experiences and learn more about ourselves and the world.
“Why we are” refers to our sense of purpose. This includes the reasons we believe we exist and/or the goals and aspirations we have for our lives. Our sense of identity inevitably influences our sense of purpose, as the beliefs and values we hold shape the things we find meaningful. For example, if someone values compassion and equality, they may find fulfilment in pursuing a career which allows them to express themselves by improving the lives of others.
“What we are” refers to our physical and biological nature. This includes our bodies and the processes that take place within them. Our physical and biological nature is determined by our genetics. What we are becomes intertwined with what we do. In answer to the question, what do you do? The answer will often be “I am a doctor or an accountant or whatever profession or occupation the individual is following. But does it really define you?
These elements – who we are, why we are, and what we are – interconnect and influence one another. Our sense of identity shapes our sense of purpose, and our physical and biological nature can influence the things we can do and the way we see ourselves. The relationship is dynamic and constantly growing, as we gain new experiences, learn more about ourselves and the world.
It is important to note that our sense of identity, purpose and what we are, may not always align with one another, and it is possible to have conflicts or dissonance between them. For example, someone’s sense of identity may centre around their career as an airline pilot, but their physical ability may change and make it difficult for them to continue in their career.
In summary, the relationship between who we are, why we are, and what we are is complex. A cocktail of our genetic makeup, our experiences, and the cultural and societal influences around us shapes it. These elements interconnect and may influence one another. It is a dynamic shifting relationship, unique to each of us.
When we understand the relationship between our Who, Why & What, we are far more likely to live fulfilling lives.