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Live to Work? Work to Live?
How does your career connect to you?
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The Wheel of Satisfaction
Some elements in the Satisfaction Wheel will speak to you more than others. Last week, I focused on Health. This week, we’re looking at CAREER. Remember, these posts are in conjunction with my newsletters. Sign up here if you would like more!
CAREER = What you do.
Take “career” as it resonates to you. Corporate climber, side hustler, creative, full-time caregiver, etc.
How happy are you with your career?
Why do you do what you do?
If you were to do something else, what would it be? Why?
Do you have career goals?
How does your career satisfaction mirror other elements of your life?
“You Live to Work”
Many years ago, I was out for drinks with my colleagues. This was when I was a middle school English teacher. A small cohort of us had founded this school. We poured ourselves into that place. It was hard as hell. The anxiety, stress, and burdens we bore were really only understood after I left. It was an experience I’ll never regret and always wonder how I did it.
Anyway. Drinks. My principal sat back and gestured to me. “You and I are the same. We wouldn’t be happy if we weren’t working.”
At the time, I remember thinking, “Uh, no. You’ve really read me wrong. I would be totally fine not to work!”
Flash forward a few years. I’d transitioned to teaching high school. It was a much more stable, steady environment. My mentor, Alyssa, said to me, “You’re a person who lives to work. What you do is part of who you are.”
I instantly thought of that moment with my former principal. Again, my knee-jerk was a no. But I was at a different place of self-awareness by then, so I pondered this. I realized that they both were right. What I do is part of who I am. It’s just that my principal didn’t see the bigger picture.
I don’t need to work to be fulfilled. I need to make an impact. I need to teach. Coach. Connect. Reach. That is “what I do.” That is why Alyssa was right. What I do, who I am, is a teacher. But that doesn’t mean I need a W-2 to be satisfied.
Some people do gain deep satisfaction from working, even when the job isn’t tied to their personality. There is nothing at all wrong with that!
I don’t mean to suggest that my way of working–my career path–is ideal or superior. (If you’ve read me at all, I doubt you took it that way.) It is simply true for me. And what is true for others is just as valid and desirable.
As long as it’s a conscious choice. A fulfilling way to build a life.
My career used to be as a NYC school teacher. While I was doing that, I also became a writer. And a fitness instructor. All three are connected in my POV. Teaching, coaching, and writing all mean I’m reaching people. Helping them think about things differently. Encouraging them.
That’s what I do. That’s why, now that I’m not a teacher, it kind of feels like I have three different jobs. Coach. Author. Event Organizer. Still doing my thing. Still expressing who I am by what I do.
I’m thinking about paring down a little, though. I think I’m trying to be too many things. But even if I restructure, I’ll still be doing some version of all of it. It’s who I am.
What about you?
Your career may or may not reflect your true self. Careers can be a means to a comfortable end. You don’t have to be what you do. Just knowing your objectives is what’s important.
Are you allowing a means to an end to make you grumpy and exhausted?
Have you forgotten why you do what you do?
Can you work to improve your narrative? (Yes, you can.)
Whatever fills your day, your attitude towards it is incredibly important. You shouldn’t pretend that all is well when you are struggling. But you can choose to create boundaries, reset your goals and intentions, and be judicious with what has access to your emotions. Your boss might be pissing you off. But if they’re keeping you up at night, that’s you giving them that power over you.
Living your passion doesn’t mean work is easy. If your career reflects your personality, that doesn’t mean you always enjoy it! In the same turn, a job that isn’t part of who you are can also be incredibly enjoyable.
Everything is hard. Everything has its rewards. How do you look at your career? How are you spending your days?