by Naomi Manley-Casimir | Apr 8, 2019 | Big Ideas, connection, Courage, Fuel Your Passion, Happiness, High Achievers, Life lessons, Self-care, Self-reflection, Working Moms | 2 comments

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Successful business executive, wife, mother, sister, aunt, friend. Loving life, cooking and yoga. Let"s be grateful, laugh and grow together.

You are watching: Figure out who you are and do it on purpose


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The other day I was watching the movie Dumplin’. For those of you who have seen it, you’ll know that the characters in the movie are huge Dolly Parton fans. And this quote from Dolly Parton comes up a couple of times:

“Figure Out Who You Are, and Do It On Purpose”.

And both parts of this statement really resonated with me. So let me break it down.

Figure Out Who You Are

Remember when you were a kid and got up every day and did your thing? You weren’t confused about who you were. And you didn’t need to figure it out.

I don’t know about you, but for me, over time, my experiences, whether positive or negative, have been layered on top of that care-free kid, and crafted who I am.

In the Early Days

According to my Mum and Dad, I was precocious, smart child reading by the age of 4. And I could hold my own in conversations with adults, speaking in full sentences very early on, to the surprise and amazement of our neighbours.

One of my early memories was when we moved to our new home in Coquitlam – I was about 4 years old – and I found a red rock. (Actually, it was a small piece of red brick, but I didn’t know that). I carried that little red rock around in my pocket every day for several days in a row.

My Dad was building a retaining rock wall in our garden and as he shoveled the cement in between the rocks, he asked me if I wanted to put my red rock in the wall. He told me that if I did, I wouldn’t lose it, and I would be able to come and see if whenever I wanted.

I remember he offered me the choice. And he waited patiently for my decision.

After a minute or two, I agreed and I pushed my little red rock into a spot in the wall. I remember skipping away happy because my little red rock was safe and secure.

Years later, I could still go by that retaining wall and see my little red rock. It was a little anchor to my new home and by putting it into the wall, it became a permanent reminder of that confident choice I had made as a little girl.

You Knew Yourself – You Didn’t Have to “Figure It Out”

I remember a conversation with my Mum about what kind of job I would want to have when I grew up, and I said something without a lot of people.

And then I modified that to be, not a research lab where I work by myself, but something in between.

It’s funny because when I did my Myers Briggs personality test in my late teens, I discovered that I am an introvert. That in fact, I do need time alone to restore my energy. And it’s amazing that my little self knew that intuitively.

These stories illustrate a little bit about who I was as a young child and how I knew myself at an early age.

But not all childhood memories are happy ones…

A Formative Moment

When I was in kindergarten, the teacher wanted to teach the class a song. She wanted to sing the verse first and wanted us to listen, and then we’d have a chance to sing along.

I loved to sing.

And I knew the song.

The first time, she began to sing and I sang with her. I mean, I knew the song, right? She stopped singing, and asked us to listen first, and then sing afterwards.

She started to sing again, and I sang with her again. Surely the instructions were for those who did not know the song. She stopped and reiterated that she wanted us all to listen first and then sing afterwards.

When she began to sing again, I sang along with her. Well at this point, she lost her cool and slapped me across the face, hard.

I cried and cried.

I didn’t tell my Mum or Dad what happened. In fact, this may be the very first time that I’ve told anyone, but my husband, about what happened. My kindergarten classmates may or may not remember this incident but I certainly do.

Anyway, I didn’t talk about it at all because I thought I’d get in a lot of trouble, and I had already been slapped across the face!

I didn’t realize that my teacher had overstepped her bounds. That HER behavior wasn’t appropriate.

The lesson I took away from this experience was: FOLLOW THE RULES.

So that carefree, precocious kid I was – well, she became a smart, articulate, rule-following, risk-aware woman – a perfectionist.

Do It On Purpose

Purpose can be a loaded word. But as the second half of this phrase, I like it.

Figure out who you are, and do it on purpose.

So what does it mean to be yourself on purpose?

It means be intentional. In those moments of choice, choose being who you are. Choose yourself.

I’ve been thinking about this in a couple of ways:

Be BraveBring your whole self to the table.

Be Brave

When Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, came out, I read it and a lot of her advice resonated with me. In particular, two of her ideas really made a difference and in providing practical ways to be brave:

Sit at the TableKeep Your Foot on the Gas Pedal

Sit at the Table

In her book, Sheryl talks about how women tend to accommodate everyone else. You go into a meeting and there aren’t enough seats for everyone, and the women will take a seat on the outer edge of the room.

Sheryl says “Sit at the Table”.

After I read that advice, I make a point of always taking a seat at the table. The table is where the discussion takes place, that’s where the folks who are contributing to the discussion are seated.

By choosing to “Sit at the Table”, you are making a conscious decision to participate in the discussion. And as a introvert, where my natural instinct is to listen and absorb, I have to make a conscious decision to speak up.

Keep Your Foot on the Gas Pedal

‘Keep your foot on the gas pedal’ is also helpful advice for me. Sandberg talks about how when women start planning their families, we might not take on the project or the challenging role because we know that we might not be there through the whole timeframe.

But assuming your health permits, and based on the nature of your role, you may be able to do just as much when you’re pregnant as you can when you’re not. Just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean your brain stops working or that you can’t contribute as much as anyone else in that role.

There’s also a chance that someone else who takes on the role would also not be able to see the project through to completion, for whatever reason.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I led program delivery across several projects. During this time, I did the role effectively, even though I worked fewer hours and didn’t invest as much energy as I typically would in an effort to balance my energy and the needs of the job.

I was surprised when I achieved the very highest level of performance recognition we had in place for my contribution during this time as I felt like I had eased off the gas pedal from my ‘normal’ effort.

When there were some changes at work, and my work was slow, I told my husband it was a good time to try for our second child. When I got pregnant with my son, my role at work got busier, of course. But I was still able to run three workstreams and make a significant impact in the months before I left on maternity leave.

Bring Your Whole Self to the Table

At my workplace, Accenture, we are on a journey to become the most truly human organization in the world. The initiative we have underway encourages each of us to bring our whole self to work. The good, the bad and the ugly.

It’s a lot easier to be positive when we’re feeling good, but we all have times when we’re not at our best. There are so many factors that can affect our energy and attitudes – sleep, stress, workload, busy-ness, overwhelm and overall health, both mental and physical. It’s important to be able to bring who you are to the table.

Now this doesn’t mean that if you’re having a rough day, you should spread that around to everyone around you. But it also doesn’t mean that you must hide what’s going on for you from others.

There is a careful balance to strike when you’re a leader. As a leader, your words and actions influence a lot of others.

As my colleague Katherine says, “Checking your attitude at the door is very important” – as a leader, your attitude has a disproportionate span of influence.

So, if you need to get something off your chest, choose your venting partner wisely.

There’s Value in Unique Experience

My experiences have taught me different lessons than others might have learned. There’s value in my unique experience and in my ability to share that with others. These unique experiences may apply to a variety of aspects of life: family, relationships, work, etc. But my experience, my path, is different than everyone else’s. So be confident that you, your experience, your perspective is valuable and is enough.

Figure Out Who You Are, and Do It On Purpose

From the outside, looking at Dolly Parton, she certainly seems like someone who is living her life as herself on purpose.

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I wish that for each of you.

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