You Are Not Your Job
Work, though essential to life, is not life. As important as work is to finding our individual meaning, it twists us out of shape if we let it. –Geoffrey Bellman
When people tell me they don’t have happiness and fulfillment at work, it’s often the case that they believe the job needs to be THE thing that fulfills them. As a result, they end up using the job to define their identity.
I think somewhere along the way we got confused about jobs and identity.
What’s interesting is that before the industrial revolution, it was common to adopt the trade of your family. And doing a job used to be a whole process. If your job was to make furniture, you would choose the wood, perhaps even harvest the tree yourself; cut, shave and cure the wood; then design, build and paint the final product.
But then the industrial revolution happened, and in that new era, your job might have been merely one part of the whole process to produce something. Perhaps, your job would be to turn screws into the wood and move it along to someone else to paint it.
And then technology progressed, and you might go from actually turning the screws to running a computer that controlled the whole operation. Or maybe you’d write programs for the computer. The point is that as things evolved, your job options increased.
In fact, one could say that we now have endless options to find fulfillment. That is if you want your job to be the source of your fulfillment. And yet so many of us aren’t happy.
I once saw a CareerBuilder survey claiming that 4 out of 5 U.S. workers do not have their dream jobs and less than ½ say they’re satisfied. So, the majority of us don’t have dream jobs.
But what is a dream job anyway? Doesn’t it mean that I should love my job?
Well, I mostly love my job, but I don’t always love my job. As a business owner, I definitely don’t love dealing with the tax stuff. When I was a recruiter I never enjoyed telling someone they weren’t getting an offer or, even worse, firing someone.
It’s all about perspective, isn’t it? We enjoy great living standards from the money we earn at these non-dream jobs. Compared to our ancestors, we live like royalty, with conveniences and luxuries that would have seemed like a fantasy to them. And yet so many of us aren’t happy.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying to stay in a job you hate, and I definitely draw a line in the sand on staying in an abusive job.
What I am saying is that we should take the pressure off. A dream job – that is, a job you love – is not necessary in order for you to have a dream life. A good job that is satisfying and meets your needs is a good thing and can give you a great life.
I’m also saying that your job does not define you unless you allow it to. And if you own a business I would also say this to you… you are not your business either!
It’s just a job. And it’s just a business. It’s what you do, it’s not WHO you are.
And really, if you understand this, you’ll know that if you lose your job, you won’t lose who you are.
My advice for immediate happiness and fulfillment is simple. Stop identifying so much with the job and hoping it will completely fulfill you. Figure out how to use your unique gifts if not in your work, then in your life some other way.
Like Geoffrey Bellman says, “Work, though essential to life, is not life.” And I would add that doing work you love is a great goal, but living a life you love is a far better one.
Angela Loeb is into self-development & personal empowerment, being awed by nature, writing, and being inspired by superhero stories. She’s also a career expert who’s advised job seekers for more than two decades.