We all perform a lot of different roles in our lives – depending on our age, profession, rank, social aspects, etc. Some are roles we have chosen ourselves, others have been ‘assigned’ to us. Which roles are most important to you and how do you perform them? Which roles do you want to reduce and which do you want to expand? This is a fascinating discussion you can hold with yourself.
Every person has a number of roles in life. The German time management expert Lothar Seiwert aptly refers to them as the different ‘hats’ we wear. Many are roles we have chosen ourselves, but not all. We have primary and secondary roles – those we carry out enthusiastically and others more out of a sense of duty. It is impossible to perform all our different roles effectively at the same time. However, we often feel guilty about this and try to do everything perfectly – sometimes to our own detriment.
Some roles are surrounded by negative stereotypes or give rise to exaggerated expectations of how to assume them. Other roles serve as a social marker (e.g. a doctor’s white coat). There are also roles that are shaped by the group objectives and rules connected with them. If individuals do not meet the corresponding expectations, they face the risk of sanctions. Consequently, roles have a major influence on how we lead our lives.
Assuming different hats
It is helpful to become aware of your different roles and how you assume them. Why not do so today? I can well imagine that you may have more hats than you realize. To give you a better understanding of what is meant by roles, I have listed my most important personal roles below (divided into three different categories). Take a look at this list and then create your own list of roles.
I will then ask you a few questions.
Roles assigned to me:
- Woman aged almost 52
- Elder sister
- Swiss citizen who grew up in Switzerland
Roles I have chosen for myself:
- Mother of two daughters (aged 7 and 9)
- ‘Mother’ to two cats
- Home owner
- University graduate
- Former manager/leader (important for my current professional roles…)
- Provider of knowledge
- Office colleague
- Member of two professional associations
- Member of village community
- Tennis player
- Member of tennis team and club
- Member of a fitness club
Role based on my personality or the way I approach things:
- People and animal lover
- Organizer (children’s routine, holidays, business, etc.)
- Persistent person
- An individual who takes her life into her own hands
- A person averse to surrendering control
Now it is your turn: Draw up your own list of roles and then answer the following questions:
- What are your most important roles and why? Are they good for you personally?
- How do you perform them? With enthusiasm, a sense of duty, in a self-sacrificing manner or in a way that also takes account of your own needs and interests?
- Which roles do you fulfil with great satisfaction, joy, etc.? How can you assume these roles to an even greater extent? How can you transfer these positive feelings to other roles by carrying them out differently?
- Which roles do you only perform out of a sense of duty and would avoid doing if you were completely free to choose? Would there be any way to reduce or eliminate them from your life? What is preventing you from doing so, and how can you overcome those obstacles?
- Are there roles that occupy too much of your time and energy? How could you better limit these roles?
- Which roles belong more to the past – meaning you have grown out of them or they no longer work well (e.g. due to a change in personal circumstances)? How can you give up these roles?
- Which roles would you like to perform to a greater extent in the future? Are there even roles that you do not yet perform but that fit with your personality and would do you good? What prevents you from assuming these roles to a larger degree or taking them up in the first place? What does it take to overcome these obstacles?
- Are there roles in which you encounter conflicts or a lack of harmony? How can you resolve this or embrace it in a more relaxed way? Or: how can you dispense with these roles or give them less prominence?
What did you learn from this exercise? Did it make you more aware of how you want to live your life – and do you now want to make changes? Are you satisfied with the roles you have? Listen to yourself and start making changes. I wish you every success and hope you will gain some satisfaction as a result.
© Claudia Kraaz