Which hat are you wearing and how do you choose to show up?

Too many hats

Which hat are you wearing and when?

Seth Godin’s blog yesterday talked about the different hats you might wear in a career and how that matters. His final point:

“The scientist invents the train. The engineer builds it out. The operations manager makes it run on time.

Operations managers shouldn’t do experiments. Scientists shouldn’t ask for instructions on what to do next. Engineers shouldn’t make stuff up.

Which hat do you wear?

Hint: you can change hats as often as you want. But be clear about the task at hand.”

Seth is talking about work, but of course the analogy works more broadly in life too.

Most of us wear many many different hats, often at the same time.  So, is no wonder that often we get both overwhelmed and a bit confused.

What are your hats?

As part of my coaching accreditation through IECL, we had to go through an exercise where we identified all the “hats” we wore on a daily basis.  It’s a powerful exercise because it illustrates both the roles that we are given by society and culture, and those that we take on as part of our self.

It’s a great exercise to do if you’re feeling overwhelmed and a bit muddled.

  • Firstly, identify all your roles in life. Go beyond the obvious and really list every hat you take on.
  • Take a moment to look at your list, and celebrate all that you do and all the hats that you hold.
  • Then, go deeper – add the ones that aren’t immediately obvious. So rather than name your role as daughter/mother/aunt –  as you go deeper, you might list the role you hold within the family – glue/provocateur/carer/keeper of the peace. Rather than list friend – you might talk about supporter/challenger/rescuer/organiser.
  • Take another moment to reflect on your list.
  • Then think about the roles that provide you the most joy and those that provide you the most challenge.

You will probably find that the deeper you go, two things occur:

  1. You realise how many hats you actually hold – both those imposed as roles by society, and those that you choose to take on as part of yourself. Sometimes the overwhelm comes from just too many hats at once.
  2. And sometimes, the discontent/muddle can come from roles that are imposed (or we perceive are imposed) that are not consistent with who you want to be, or how you want to live your life. This is particularly true of family/friend relationships where we find ourselves taking on a role that we didn’t necessarily sign up to.

What to do with all the hats?

So, do you ditch the hats? No – to my way of thinking -it’s the multiple hats that give us variety and joy and broaden our horizons.. BUT, and this is a big but.. So much overwhelm comes from trying to have two hats on at once..

Think about the visual of that – it would look pretty silly to have a hat upon a hat… Neither hat is really doing it’s job then – and which one is the primary hat?

So, the key is to be clear on which hat you are wearing at any one time.. and be present as much as possible given that hat. The classic example would be sitting on the couch reading to the kids at night time, whilst in your mind you’re running through something that is bothering you at work. Neither really gets your full attention. But if you can say to yourself – for the next five minutes, I am wearing my parent hat, and I will come back to problem solver hat later on tonight – and actually BE present in both of those times, you will probably find both are much more rewarding.

What about the hats that don’t fit any more?

The second part of this process is to look at the hats that aren’t serving you well any more.. The ones that you may not even have realised you were taking on (probably from the second part of the exercise). Think about what you can do to let go of those hats. Think about whether the hats are self imposed or imposed by others.. Here’s where using the questions that we talked about in this post might be useful.
This process doesn’t necessarily need to be done in one hit. Indeed, much of its power comes from being able to reflect on what you have discovered. But, if you can set aside 15 minutes now today to do the first part, and then 15 minutes later in the week, and then 15 minutes on the weekend; I guarantee you’ll find out some things about your life that will be illuminating and might set you on the path to less confusion, more clarity and more joy!
And, if you think that working with a coach might help you with the process, feel free to get in touch to discuss how I can help you – either as part of your leadership development through your organisation or personally.
Until next week, happy thinking,

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