Living Well

What do YOU do?

unnamedHave you had the experience of being in a social situation and being asked ‘what do you do?’ It seems to be one of the regular ways we begin to connect with a person; a culturally embedded query – like ‘how are you?’ or ‘how’s it going?’ What is it like to ask the question? What is it like to answer the question?

In some sense, asking the question is a way of saying ‘who are you?’ But we’ve asked it in such a way as to invite – and maybe expect – an answer that describes a role, a position, a job. I’m clergy. I’m VP of sales. I’m a salesman. I’m a teacher. I’m a landscaper. I’m a nurse.

When we ask this question, what happens? As for me, I begin to think about my own experience with someone else I know who holds a similar job. This might prompt additional questions about where someone works. I might even ask something about the specifics of what they do.

But what I really want to know is, Who are you? What is important to you? How do you express yourself in the world? What are your treasured experiences? What values do you hold dear? And I know that asking about someone’s job – what do you do? – does not always answer these questions for me.

I have been re-reading “Most Intimate: A Zen Approach to Life’s Challenges”, by Pat Enkyo O-Hara. I had become aware that I was feeling disconnected with the reality and truth of my own experience, and this book had – in the past – helped me to return to the practices that free me to re-connect.

This morning, I re-read the chapter on Work, and found myself feeling energized and grateful. She says, “Work can mean our career or simply how we make money; it can be our calling (our life’s work) or simply our function in the world: making the beds, doing the dishes.” O’Hara goes on to say, “I like to think of work as what we do; it is the activity of the life we live. Work is any activity we’re engaged in that requires our energy and focus, whether or not we’re paid for it.”

  1. Does this change the way I want to ask the question of others? What is your work? Or, what keeps you busy day to day? Or, tell me what demands your energy and focus in life? What captures your attention in the world? What fuels your life? How do your work and your values intersect?

Are these questions you want to ask? Are they questions you want to answer? They are for me. So I look forward to gathering with other people who want to think about, talk about, reflect on, these and other questions about what we do and how we do it. Would you like to join us?

What do YOU do?

Soul of Leadership ‘Mini’: Decision Making and Discernment

Beginning Monday, February 16.

A 10-week program drawing people together from a variety of work and vocational backgrounds to learn to apply leadership approaches which are best for their own style, situation, and values; and to experience community support and affirmation as they incorporate and develop new leadership skills.


One thought on “Living Well

  1. Thanks for these thoughtful questions, Susie. I, too, want to get to know who people are, and “What do you do?” seems like a socially acceptable question to begin to get to the deeper level. At the same time, maybe there are times I would like to begin with another question. You’ve helped me be more thoughtful. Thank you for stimulating me to think about this.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s