MBAs – What Roles Do You Play in Your Life?

ID-10056480The roles we play and our dedication to each should reflect what matters to us as individuals. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. More often than not, we find we are playing roles we did not select for ourselves; or over time, our roles and what matters to us change. Perhaps of greater significance is that many of us incrementally add roles without taking into consideration the competing demands of our existing commitments. It is so easy to say yes to innocuous requests, such as serving on the church’s budget committee or mentoring a new hire. No matter the cause, the result is the same: a life where we subjugate roles that matter to those that matter less. MBA students often find themselves in this situation while concurrently pursuing their MBA degree, managing their career, and being supportive of their family. Proactively managing the roles one plays can help avoid this situation. Doing so starts by knowing what roles you are currently playing in your life.

The Roles We Play

Roles are the usual or expected functions of life, which, in turn, outline what we expect of ourselves. Some are more central to our lives than others; and as such, we can more easily identify them. Some examples include teacher, parent, spouse, employee, student, and manager. Identifying other roles is more difficult because we do not think of them as roles. Examples include son or daughter, homemaker, church member and friend. Your list of roles should begin with the current roles you are playing. You can easily start your list by answering the following questions (Ditzler 121):

  • What are my current responsibilities?
  • What am I accountable for in my life?
  • What do I do during the day and on weekends?
  • What would I call the roles I am playing as I am doing each of these activities?

One role most often neglected by MBA students is that of being their own coach or caretaker. I refer to this as being the CEO of me. This role is critical, especially for MBA students who think they can add an MBA program to an already busy life. Usually, the first activity jettisoned because of increased workload is the exercise regimen. The second is often good eating habits. During the first six months of an MBA program, it is common to see MBA students gain 10-15 pounds. Anecdotally, I have observed and thus believe that physical fitness and good health result in better student performance and learning. For other aspects of the caretaker role, see the following MyeEMBA articles “How Will Starting an MBA Affect My Life in the Short-term,”Action Planning – Mitigate Sacrifices of Earning an MBA” and “Work-Life Balance: Career Wellbeing While Earning My MBA.”

The Benefits of Thinking about Roles

Thinking about the roles one plays provides a useful approach to managing the daily and weekly activities of one’s life. Some of the more prominent benefits of thinking about roles include (Ditzler 118):

  1. Direction – Roles provide a framework for what is expected and a starting point for defining the actions required for meeting those expectations.
  2. Alignment – A role focus helps determine if the roles played are consistent with what matters.
  3. Focus – Expectations for fulfilling a given role become the driving forces for one’s actions and behaviors.
  4. Balance – A role perspective provides a way to see what roles are taking the most time and attention and what roles need more time and attention so that rebalancing can occur.
  5. Motivation – Self-motivation increases when time and attention are devoted to the things that matter and the results are observable.

Role-Switching Issues

Given the number of roles we play, it is likely that we will find ourselves switching roles multiple times during the day or week. For example, the part-time MBA student could begin his or her day as a parent taking the kids to school, then switch to manger when arriving at work, then shifting to student when going to class in the evening; and finally, when arriving home at night, taking on the role of spouse. The point is that as we change roles, the skill sets and behaviors required for one role may not be appropriate for the next role. Furthermore, the constant switching of roles can be draining, both emotionally and physically.

While changing issues will vary by individual and by role, it is sometimes helpful to schedule a brief break between roles when function swapping is necessary. I learned the critical nature of role switching while serving as a military pilot. While in the aviator role, my primary purpose was to fly the aircraft. No matter what happened at home or in other aspects of the workday, a pilot must leave them on the ground when flying. Most of us developed a technique for doing so. My approach was to sit in my car after arriving at the flight line and to do uninterrupted thinking concerning the flight I was about to make. Effectively, I was pushing the day’s events and activities out of my mind. For most roles, the shift may not be as pronounced; even so, some form of mental adjustment may be helpful.

Do you know all of the roles you play? Do you find yourself shifting roles on a frequent basis? Do you have a technique for role shifting? Please share your thoughts with the MyeEMBA readers by adding a comment below.

Work Cited:

Ditzler, J. S., 1998. Your Best Year Yet. New York: Grand Central Publishing.

About the Author: 

Dr. Rodney Alsup is the creator of the MyeEMBA blog. His goal is to help MBA students live and work smarter while they earn their MBA.

Image courtesy of Renjith Krishnan /

4 comments for “MBAs – What Roles Do You Play in Your Life?

  1. December 2, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    I suspect we should all look at the roles we are playing, and do so on a regular basis. Every once in while I stop and informally go through some of these steps… but your list is a much better approach.

  2. Dennis Brown
    December 2, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    This is an excellent article!

    I cannot think of anyone that it does NOT apply to, especially people that supposedly have a lot of time on their hands (like retirees, for example!).

    I now realize that life management is one of the most important functions that we often perform well for others, but don’t take the time to do it for ourselves.

  3. December 20, 2013 at 4:33 am

    Great man ! Nobody can think like you. What MBA student can do else apart from his job and study.Your each article touch our heart and made us to do something different.

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