Affirmations, focus, goal setting, inspiration, journaling, mindfulness, Personal Development, Personal growth

“What Do You Do?”: Moving Beyond a Work-based Identity

Me back in ancient times, playing with my pet turtle in our blow-up swimming pool

In the culture I grew up in, training to identify with work started at an early age. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” A lot of kids answers have some element of adventure to it, once you take away the label. Fire fighter, astronaut, faery, explorer. Some are more practical: teacher, nurse, scientist, doctor, parent. For an entire year, I insisted I was a pirate named Maria.

Later, if we go to school beyond the teenage years, it’s “What’s your major? What trade are you training in?” And of course, the good old fall back at social gatherings: “What do you do?”, meaning what do you do for work. It’s a way to compare social status, I suppose.

All of these are identifiers as who we are as commodities, or part of a work community, but not who we are as people. I’ve done everything from cleaning bathrooms, to being an executive assistant to having the privilege to meeting a U.S. President. Those are all things I’ve done for work, but not who I am as a person. They don’t describe how I like to watch the play of light and shadow, stop to talk with birds, feel the texture of beads in my hands, get carried away in meditation, or how creating music will carry me away for hours. For a time I ran a group called “I am not my day job”, where we celebrated what we enjoyed when we weren’t working.

I’ve mentioned before elsewhere how having an event at one of my workplaces changed how different departments viewed and interacted with each other, simply by having a day of sharing what we all enjoyed doing outside of work. It elevated communication and interpersonal respect, and that improved productivity.

There’s so much beyond that practical value, though. I feel in so many cases now, there’s more and more pressure and expectation to produce more, with less time, and give up more of our time to our work. In some jobs, the time it takes to complete a task is monitored, not taking into account that workers are biological beings, and not machines.

This leaves very little time for us to do things we love, spending time with family, and just being. It’s gotten to the point where many of us are expected to be available for work 24/7. Belgium just recently passed a law that government workers no longer have to answer work emails or calls after work hours. Technology’s been great in so many ways, and it’s also accelerated burn out for workers.

It’s time to change how we identify, if we haven’t already. One of the- I suppose you could call it gifts- of the past couple of years is that many had an opportunity to rediscover things they love to do, and the desire to have a better balance in life.

My invitations to you this week are these:
When you meet someone, instead of asking them “what do you do” ask them what brings them joy, where’s the best place they’ve visited, first music they bought. Get creative in your inquiries.

And for yourself:
Write “I ….” and list as many things you can think of. Challenge yourself not to edit. These can be affirmations, such as “I am joyful”, things you like to do “I like wiggling my bear toes in the sand” “I love sinking into my bed after a long day” “I make music that fills my soul” “I am a friend/lover/parent/child”.

Make a list of your values. How do these reflect what you love to do? Who you are at your essence? Does what you do for work incorporate your values, or is it in conflict with them? (Sometimes we have to do what we have to do for work, and that’s OK!) If your work doesn’t align with your values, how can you make more space in your day for what does? Are there changes you can make within your current circumstances to better reflect who you are?

Look to see if there are groups or categories of identifiers. Are there unmet longings? Habits-in-waiting asking for attention? What action steps will you take today to bring these to reality?

I’d love to hear how it goes for you.
***********************************************************************************
This is a taste of the course I’m developing on defining one’s life purposes that I’ll be offering later this year. If this sounds interesting to you, send me an email at info@craftingthespirit.com and let me know you’d like to be on the mailing list.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s