The Roles We Play in Life

day in the life of part 4


I’m not sure if it’s because I’m getting a little older or what, but I’ve found myself periodically looking at the Obituaries section in the paper (maybe it’s a give-away that I’m getting older because I still get the paper!  But, there’s something about the physical paper itself that I love).  Anyway, one of the things that is so striking to me when reading a person’s Obituary is that typically the first ⅔’s of it are all about what kind of parent, spouse, child, friend, etc. they were in life.   You get a little bit about the career once you get about ⅔ down.

So, why is that?  Is that what is most important to the people who are putting the Obituary together once you die (who typically gets assigned that task by the way?)?  Does it change if you drafted the Obituary yourself before you died?

I know this whole thread can start to sound a little morbid, but my point is this.

If I compared the ratio of what’s written in the typical Obituary to how I spend my time, mental energy, emotional energy, etc., that ratio is inverted; I spend about ⅔ of my waking hours, mental energy, emotional energy, etc. on “career” and the ⅓ balance on all of the other things I care about most, and especially the people I care about most and the roles that I play in those relationships with them.   

So, why is that?  I don’t know about for you, but for me, there are several reasons I think (none of which are that great!).  I won’t go into all of them in this entry (will come back to some of the others later), but the main reason for me when I step back and think about is that I just don’t spend enough time thinking about how important those roles are that I play.  And, more importantly, how important they are to those people with whom I have those relationships.

To that end, one of the cool things about working on goHappy is that it has really brought to the forefront for me how important it is to be periodically asking and answering the following questions (not that I do any of this well, but I’m trying to get a heckuva lot better at it!):

  • What are the most important roles I play in life (What are those relationships that are most important to me)?   ⋅⋅* Husband, dad, uncle, son, brother, cousin, friend, etc..  Just even identifying these has been a super helpful exercise for me.
  • Who do I want to be in these roles? ⋅⋅* I’ve started to write little “Objective Statements” (and please come up with a better name for this than Objective Statement!) next to each of these roles I’m playing (e.g., to be an in the moment, loving, encouraging Dad); This really forces me to think about who I want to be in these relationships and what those people want/need for me to be in that role.
  • What does it take to live out that desired “Objective Statement”? ⋅⋅* Without making it overcomplicated, cascading that statement into practical things that I can be doing to make that Statement more of a reality (e.g., encourage my kids to try one new thing each month, schedule 1:1 time with each of them at least once a month) and checking in periodically on how I’m doing against that. ⋅⋅* And, one of the keys that I’ve found here is that I HAVE to get these things on my calendar; I have such a better chance of doing them if I do that!  More to come on this one in a later entry… 

I’ll caveat this entry like I do with all of the rest - these are all things that I’m really trying to work on but not always with a lot of success!  Heck, my sister is one of my most important people (my role as a brother), but yet I haven’t made one Plan to go see her in the last 2 years - sorry, Heather (and I promise to come to CA to see you soon!:)).

Has anyone else thought about life/your relationships from this perspective of roles you play, and if so, any thoughts, suggestions, etc. (e.g., a better name for “Objective Statement”!)?  Please share away - I’d love to hear them!