The Most Important Question We Ask Ourselves

Posted on July 26, 2017 in Community

First in a Series of Articles on Identity, Purpose, and Vision

I have a question for you: who do you think you are?

Chances are someone’s asked you that question before. And I bet it was served up in a negative context, like “who do you think you are to do that?” Where did your mind take you when you heard it?

An oft-quoted Proverb says, “for as he thinks within himself, so he is.” Whatever we think about ourselves and believe about ourselves we are, which manifests in our choices and actions.

Last weekend, I had the privilege of hanging out with twenty-three men at our annual retreat in Mammoth Lakes, one of the most beautiful mountain locales in California. The theme of our time away was “Men Living in Purpose.”

Over three two-hour sessions, our guest speaker, Stephen De Silva, challenged us to consider how we think about ourselves with a tool he’s developed called The Purpose Train. It’s built on five key questions:

  • Identity: Who am I?
  • Purpose: Why am I here?
  • Vision: What is the fruit of my purpose?
  • Strategy: How will I accomplish my vision?
  • Tactics: What are my best daily choices and actions?

Trains can carry massive loads, and they function better when the engine pulls than when it pushes. De Silva used this metaphor to illustrate how our purpose—why we are here—needs to be the engine that pulls our vision, strategy, and daily choices and actions.

If our purpose is the engine that pulls, identity is the track on which our purpose runs. Which means the most important question we ask ourselves is, who am I? Knowing our true identity leads us to know our true purpose. Not knowing the answer makes our daily decisions and actions the engine that pushes our train and makes us more susceptible to derailments.

When we began this exercise, I thought I had a clear sense of my identity—child of God, a new creation in Christ—and purpose, to use the gifts and talents He created in me do the good works He planned for me. But those things are true of everyone who follows Jesus. What’s my unique identity and purpose?

Identity isn’t found in what I do. It’s something greater. It’s foundational. Personal. Specific to me.

The abilities and affinities we have are clues to purpose—what comes naturally to us, what makes us come alive. Writing, teaching, coaching, and counseling make me feel most alive.

But my identity isn’t found in what I do. This is where the retreat became most challenging for me. Identity is something greater. It’s foundational. Personal. Specific to me.

De Silva encouraged us to come up with single-word answers to the questions of identity, purpose, and vision. As of Sunday morning, I hadn’t arrived at any that were personal and specific and resonated within. As the retreat drew to a close, I landed on these:

Identity: Counselor
Purpose: Show
Vision: Story

The pursuit of true identity and purpose is a journey best taken with God. I’m journaling with Him on these questions and I’ll be sharing more on what I discover in future blog posts.

So, how do you answer the questions “who am I” and “why am I here”? Let’s take this journey together.