Last night, as we continued to explore the Who Am I? section of the E49 framework in the small group I’m working with, we got into our I Am statements. The previous week, we looked at our refining moments. These are the moments, situations, and experiences that help shape and refine who we are. During this meeting, it was interesting to get a little more detailed and focus not just on experiences or moments, but on those traits and characteristics that we claim as our own.

It has been a great learning experience for me to share this framework and learn from the men going through it. I’m reminded of the importance of community, and sharing, and learning from one another. I’m also reminded of the importance of defining ourselves, for ourselves, rather than looking at everything and everyone around us to make those definitions for us. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s noisy outside, which means we need to figure out how to make it quiet on the inside. One of the best ways that we can do that, is to craft some definitive I Am statements. This is not a catchall answer to the mysteries of life (nothing is, is it?), but it is a really great step in this process. Doing so makes it much more difficult for others to stamp their definitions on us, and much less tempting for us to allow them to do so.

As we craft our I Am statements, the encouragement is to be careful with our use of titles as we make determinations regarding what defines us and who we are. One exception would be, that if those titles, or roles, are a part of the fabric of who we are, then we should certainly include them. But I think we need to be careful, both literally and figuratively, not to bury ourselves in our titles. For me, I include titles/roles that are meaningful to me and relevant to who I am and the person I aspire to be.

I am Hope and Harper’s Dad

I am Jennifer’s Husband

I am a teacher

These roles are important, and help guide the decisions I make, and are an intimate part of who I am and who I am becoming. The first two may be obvious, but the role of teacher has less to do with my profession, and more to do with traits and characteristics that are important to me. I’ve learned that teaching, coaching, and encouraging are a part of who I am, regardless of where that occurs (i.e. in or out of the classroom/on or off of the court). So I, initially, included these roles. A more powerful exploration, in an effort to avoid titles, would be to consider what traits or characteristics really define who I am as a dad, husband, or teacher. It would be worth asking ourselves, as we consider these titles, what lies beneath them that is most meaningful to who we are. What trait is behind the title? In the event that we can’t answer this question, we might want to consider if this title is worth including here. In other words, if there are no meaningful, lasting traits behind the title, then perhaps it isn’t worthy of being included as part of Who Am I.

Another encouragement to consider is the idea of being future oriented. I may have used this story as an example before, but I think it is relevant to include it again here:

A few years ago, a school district in San Francisco pulled off a rather ingenious experiment.

Three teachers were chosen to pilot a special program.

They were told by administrators,

“You are the best we have. We want you to teach ninety high-IQ students.

We’ll let you move at their pace and see how much they can learn in a year.”

By the end of the school year, those specially selected students had achieved 20 to 30 percent more than the rest of the school district…

That’s when the principal called the three teachers into his office and told them,

“I have a confession to make. You did not have ninety high-IQ students.

They were run of the mill students randomly selected.

As you can imagine, the teachers felt pretty good about what they had accomplished.

Then the principal said, “I have another confession.”

“You were not the best teachers we have. Your names were the first three out of the hat.”

-This story was pulled from If, by Mark Batterson

It is okay, and probably healthy, to write some of your I AM statements in the future tense. You can consider those traits that you are aspiring towards, or those things that you are becoming. Some of your statements may read, “I am…” and others may read, “I am becoming…”.

If you want to have a certain trait, act as if you already have it. -William James

It may seem a little silly to you, to take the time to write out I Am statements, but there is more power to this exercise than you may think. Additionally, resist the temptation of, “I already know who I am, there is no need for me to write it down.” You’d be surprised by what you may struggle with articulating, if you are forced to say it out loud, or put it on paper. Writing things down makes them more permanent, more tangible, more real for us. It forces some action out of us, however small it may be, and makes the exercise more memorable

Once you have completed your I Am statements, the second layer of the exercise is to consider the following:

At school/work I am…

With my friends I am…

With my family I am…

You may have more of these that are worth thinking about, those are just three of the more common situations in which most people find themselves. It’s a good reflection to consider if how we are in these situations line up with the people that we say we are, and the people we say we are becoming.

We all have roles to fill, at different times and in different situations. When I’m with my kids, I need to put my dad hat on (or put it on a little tighter), than I do when I’m with my friends, or at work. At work, there are certain expectations in regards to professionalism and fitting in to the culture, that I must consider. The things that I focus on at work, aren’t important for me to conform to when I’m with my friends, or at home with my family. We all have roles to fill.

However. Consider this:

Filling a role is necessary. Playing a role is dangerous.

If you find yourself, in these situations or others that are relevant to your personal experience, wavering too far from center, then it may be time to reconsider the role, or at least, reconsider how you are filling it. Who I say that I am, and who I say that I’m becoming, shouldn’t be compromised when I’m out with friends or when I’m at work. Yes, some things may be more visible at times as compared to others, but never should I be so engrossed in playing a role that I stray to far from the center of who I am.

When you compare your I Am statements to those statements relating to work, friends and family, I hope you’ll give some consideration to working towards as much alignment as possible in all areas.

If you’d like to take a look at the process we use to get these thoughts out on paper, or have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out. bryan@efournine.com

I’m pulling for you,




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Bryan Hendley

Bryan Hendley

Coach, Teacher, Author, Encourager. - I write words of encouragement focused on personal growth, parenting, and leadership. www.bryanhendley.com