I recently read an article about Matthew Bowers. In the article, Matthew was expressing his concern about what he referred to as an “alarming shift” in his mindset concerning his career. What alarmed him was the fact that he had recently discovered that his identity was no longer exclusively tied to his job.
“I always saw myself as a high-performance individual who was focused solely on working my way up to VP, but lately I’ve been worried that I may be developing aspects of my personality that have nothing to do with climbing the corporate ladder,” said Bowers, 42, noting that he has recently observed in himself an “unhealthy” level of preoccupation with personal interests, activities, and relationships that can in no way give him a leg up professionally. “Just the other day, I was telling my boss about my son’s soccer game—at work, mind you—and he responded by calling me ‘a real family man.’ My boss called me that. It was a huge wake-up call.” TheOnion.com
After his “wake-up call” Matthew determined that he would return to his roots, which for him included working until at least 9 pm each night, and missing his kids soccer games and piano recitals.
I can relate too Matthew’s story. In the past I have found it easy to get caught up in my career at the expense of everything else. I have a feeling I’m not alone. For many of us work is often where we spend most of our time, energy and attention.
You Are Not Your Job
No matter how much you may love your job (or not), you have a life outside of your career. If you are reading this you probably have a wife and kids. You probably also have some interesting side projects that keep you busy. You are not your job!
We work for a variety of reasons. At a basic level, we work to pay our bills. In some cases, our jobs provide us with a creative outlet, a way to grow, contribute to a team, and a sense of fulfillment.
I like the way that Jonathan Fields puts this in his book, Career Renegade:
“Much to the contrary of what we’ve been told for the better part of our lives, we do not exist for the sole purpose of paying our bills, grooming our kids to be able to do the same, and maybe, someday, retiring to finally enjoy life, should we ever reach that point. We are here to let our lights shine as brightly as possible, to drink in the joy of friendship and family, to serve and better the greater community, and to tap into and inspire passion into everything we do. We are here to come alive. In doing so, we serve as an example to others that a life beyond muddling is not only possible, but mandatory.”
Even if your job provides you will all of that, and provides a major portion of your identity – you are not your job!
You Are Defined By Who You Are – Not What You Do
Have you ever noticed that whenever you meet someone new, they usually ask the question, “What do you do?”
This starts when we are children. Every 5-year old has an answer to question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” From an early age we taught that we need to be something. We are taught that we need to connect our identity to our career. As we grow older, people are impressed (or not) with what you do.
Wouldn’t it be great if people wanted to get to know us for who we are instead of what we do? It is who we are, and not what we do that makes an impact on the lives of others.
You are a worthy human being – no matter what your job is!
It doesn’t matter if you have a job, are between jobs, own your own business (or are owned by it), are bankrupt, or are still trying to figure out what you’re going to be when you grow up – you are not your job. It is who you are, and not what you do, that makes a difference in the world.
Be proud of who you are, for you are not defined by what you do.
Question: Are you defined by what you do or who your are?