Mark Whittle is a performance and purpose coach who helps the best get better, unlocking an extra 1-2% in the world's leading athletes. Here, he tells us how finding who you are can be the key to unlocking what you really want in life.
Have you ever asked yourself ‘Who Am I’? I mean, really sat down and consciously considered who you are? Initially, it can feel quite overwhelming and might lead you down a bit of a rabbit hole. But I do believe that if we don’t truly consider who we are and what we stand for, how do we ever know what we want to do?
There are a few ways we can tackle this question and start to better understand ourselves. Once we’ve done this, we will start to get to know ourselves, which will help us when deciding who we want to become, and ultimately, how we want to be remembered.
I was recently part of a group who were collectively asked the same question three times. That question was, of course: ‘who are you’? Each person was given two minutes to answer the question without being interrupted, before being asked the same question again and again. This was surprisingly challenging, and to make things even more difficult, we couldn’t repeat anything we had said in the previous two minutes.
We had six minutes in total to verbalise who we thought we were. The blink of an eye in a lifetime, but an eternity on a Monday morning with limited caffeine in the system! Alan Watts said ‘trying to define yourself, is like trying to bite your own teeth’. But this exercise is not meant to cause further confusion, it’s intention is to bring clarity and deepen awareness for the actions you want to take in the future.
As the answers poured in, I noticed a pattern emerge in our group. When first asked ‘who are you’?, we turned to our titles, discussing what we do day to day and considering our role in society. For example, ‘I am an athlete’, ‘I am a CEO’, or ‘I am a ‘success’. For most, the ego answered. When we were asked again, it gave us enough time to realise that our roles don’t define us. Answer two looked more like this; ‘I am a human being’, ‘I am one of six billion humans on this planet’, ‘I am experiencing earth in this vast universe’. Our perspective had shift in just four minutes.
Being asked a third time deepened our awareness once again. This time, in an attempt to find something we hadn’t already spoken about, we were driven deeper into our values, what we feel is important in this world, the impact we want to have while we are here and ultimately the legacy we want to leave behind. People were vulnerable, I was inspired and genuine relationships were formed.
We aren’t often pushed to look below the surface and because we don’t have to, we don’t often consciously consider what is important to us. The world operates at an incredible pace and we all do well to just keep up with it. This is beautifully summed up by the rocket analogy; we are all clinging on to the wheel of the rocket while it blasts into the stratosphere! We operate from the panic of holding on, as the rocket (the world) dictates our direction, rather than navigating life as a confident pilot who knows who they are and therefore where they are going!
Deeply considering who we are in this world isn’t something to do all the time. However, by proactively slowing down and asking who we are, and by defining our values and our north star, clarity is given to who we are and who we want to become. One of the fundamental drivers in life - something we all have in common - is the underlying desire to leave a lasting legacy, whether for our close family and friends or for the wider world. I encourage you to slow down and give yourself the time to answer these questions, so you can confidently steer your ship to its desired destination and no longer hang on for dear life. And maybe you’ll leave a lasting legacy in the process.
An entrepreneur, coach, podcaster, speaker, writer, mental health advocate and most importantly, a father, Mark Whittle is a performance and purpose coach who helps the best get better, unlocking an extra 1-2% in the world's leading athletes. Mark empowers individuals to take back control of their lives and manage the day-to-day external pressure, scrutiny and judgement of others. You can find out more about him on his website.