What we ‘do’ instead of what we ‘are.’

What we ‘do’ instead of what we ‘are.’ Are we human beings or human ‘doings’?


Think about the last time someone asked what you do. What did you tell them? Most of us, by programming of convention, reply to this question with a simple answer: “I am [insert profession or hobbies here]”. We say things like “I am a lawyer” or “I am a massage therapist.” Or a doctor, or a software engineer, or a martial artist, or a stay-at-home mom.


In this blog post I am proposing that we shift our perspectives a bit and make a distinction between who we are and what we do. I could call myself a Vitalistic Chiropractor, or I could simply say “I help people heal their bodies naturally.” The statement is about what I do and not what I am. When I say, “I adjust people,” then I can become a human being again. I am a human being who happens to act as a chiropractor for other human beings.

When we say “I am…”

We can unintentionally pigeon-hole ourselves into a particular role or way of behaving. Encompassing everything about who we are in all our amazing complexities is nearly impossible to do in a single statement. People dedicate whole autobiographies trying to explore the “I am…” statement. We are all so many things all at once, and there’s no reason for us to separate them and choose one.

Here’s my challenge for you.

Next time someone asks you what you do, tell them what you do instead of making it who you are. Instead of saying “I am a neuromuscular therapist” try saying “I help my clients get out of chronic pain.” Instead of saying “I’m a landscaper” you might try “I help people make their homes beautiful.” Statements like these let people know what you do without limiting who you are. For example, in the past I taught a four hour anatomy and physiology class once or twice a week. If I told someone “I am a teacher” then they would come away with limited understanding of who I really am. I did teach anatomy, but the rest of my week I was something else.

An automatic question

When we first meet someone is “What do you do?” The answer is normally the short, terse “I am” statement, and the conversation hits a standstill. People are often genuinely curious about us, but don’t know what else to ask. Making a statement about what you do, however, leaves the conversation room to expand, allowing us to build better bridges and deeper connections to the people we meet.

A simple conversation might go something like this:

“Hi, It’s nice to meet you Ted. What do you do?”
“I help people with…”
“Oh, that’s interesting! How do you do that?”

And Voila. Ted is forming connections and deepening relationships all at the same time, and he doesn’t have to put any limitations on who he is or all the other fantastic things he does. Also, it leaves room for Ted to be curious as well, opening a two-way street. Both people feel can feel heard and learn what they want to learn.
Take a look at a few of these “I am” versus “I do” statements.
“I am a professional coach” or.. “I help creative professionals expand their visions”
or.. “I help artists finish their projects and sell them”
or.. “I help writers finish their books and get published”
The distinction between what we do and who we are can be fun to play with. We are so many things, and we play so many roles, that choosing one doesn’t do us any justice. How many “I do” versus “I am” statements can you come up with? Visit The Adjustatorium today.

Please leave comments and let me know… What do you do?
Dr. Ryan K. Marchman