Rasheed Ogunlaru

There are multiple inequalities in our society: you see it play out in politics, business, in our homes, workplaces and communities. There are huge economic, class and social divides – and we have far to travel when it comes to gender, race, disability, faith, sexuality, age and other equalities. And while the last few years have shone a powerful light on many of these inequalities many of our views remain fixed and polarised. But asking two essential existential questions Who am I? and Who are we? Could help us make the consciousness shift that is essential if we are to progress as a species.

Who am I?

We are defined and often confined by all sorts of labels of who we are, what we ought to be. Many of these labels are brilliant and beautiful. Many shine a bold light on our history and qualities. But all too often they box us all into the “you and I”, “us and them” duality that causes conflict within ourselves, externally with other groups or individuals and at every level in society.

These labels often also cover up a deeper beauty and other qualities that we often do not see. As a coach I have coached hundreds of people who do not see their own magic and I’ve addressed thousands more at my events and talks who have the same scenario. On the one hand we often get trapped in ‘our’ identities or feel frustrated by how others label us. On the other hand – and this is fundamental -we all have multiple identities throughout our life. Who you are now and who you were in infancy, childhood, adolescence, youth and maturity are different. You look, behave and think slightly or radically differently at each stage. It is not just time that shifts our identity. Our knowledge and experiences change us, our outlook and our habits. And let’s look deeper and superficially at the same time; you behave differently in different rooms, with different people. Who you are with one family member and another may differ. How you are with your boss, colleagues, friends. You … and everyone else are beautifully complex … but also deeply conditioned.

So if who you are is far more fluid than fixed – if it is multi-faceted- then that is true for everyone else in adulthood. And if that is the case the narrow lens through which we label ourselves and others is not (fully) accurate or often not accurate at all.

In other words how clear, wide and sharp is the lens with which you look at yourself and others and what has shaped and tinted it. 

Who are we?

“There’s a vast space between being simply human to being truly humane”

Rasheed Ogunlaru

Who are we is a question that we rarely ask. I’m not asking you about your family, football team, fashion tastes – or any group. I am asking who we are collectively – one and all. When we start to ask this question we begin to move beyond the paradigm of you and I – and even of we, to the paradigm of all. It can seem daunting and scary. It is far easier to retreat into a shell and believe that I exist independent from you.

But it’s clear that our lives are interwoven and interconnected. There will be people ‘different’ to you in the neighbouring room, desk, house, town, city, country and sooner or later you will need to engage with them on some level or another. If even China and America cannot exist without engaging with each other as large and powerful as they are then the chances are you too will not be fully independent. This realisation should bring at least a moment of humility or realisation of an interconnectedness.

So who are we collectively? It would seem that we are a species of various varieties who are linked through family, society, technology, economy, biology and the air that we breathe.

One Planet, one Inter-Connected System

“We’re merely one tree with various types, shapes and sizes of leaves that all wave differently in the breeze.”

Rasheed Ogunlaru

I have a saying that “We share the same physical planet but we each live in our own worlds.” Living in our own world is fine but if you want to address issues like climate change or world trade then we have to begin to see the bigger picture rather than my piece in the puzzle and those which are closest to me as a person, group or country. So the who are we question is key.

Making a Difference

Many people speak of making a difference. But making a difference begins in appreciating our differences; colour, creed, gender, identity, beliefs, abilities, ages, life stages, learning styles and beyond. It would seem that wherever you look in nature there is difference, there is variety and biodiversity. Without all the colours there is no vibrant painting. Without differing roles and abilities there is no sports team or departments within a business or store. Without variety there is no rounded diet, missing parts in every product.

Looking Ahead

In future articles I will further explore consciousness and compassion. These are the two qualities we must raise, deepen and connect with if we are serious about continuing to flourish as a species. They are also essential to address some of the big challenges we find ourselves faced with.