Welcome friends to Episode #125 of the Own Your Best Life Podcast. When you spend so much time thinking about who you are at work and working, it is often hard to pinpoint exactly what life looks like for you outside of work. Is it your never-ending to-do list of chores or places to go and see? Is this really what life is about? Work + non-work streaming into months, days and years? If you feel like you’re getting lost in the many roles you play, today’s podcast is for you. We will talk about why it’s important to figure out who you are outside of your work.
I remember when I came up with the tagline that you might hear me say, “You are your most important work.” It was in a journal entry while I was on a retreat in the Berkshires in Massachusetts.
Something clicked at that moment. I saw that instead of living from the outside in, I was on a journey of living from the inside out.
It seems odd to me now that I so closely identified with work for so long, but it was the case. I thought of myself as a spiritual person, someone who knew that there was more outside of work but knowing isn’t the same as doing.
I didn’t really spend much time outside of work thinking about or understanding who I was and what I liked or disliked. It wasn’t as much about discovering personal preferences as it was getting to the core of what I was innately curious about and what brought meaning to my life.
I had what felt like generic answers or really no answers at all to questions like, “what is my purpose?” or “What brings me meaning?”
So I started trying to figure it out through the road of self-development and coaching.
It started with small things like how to spend my spare time, what I wanted to eat and where I wanted to go – but it eventually became big things like what I stand for, what I believe and what REALLY brings purpose to my life.
It made me wonder, “why do so many of us get so lost in our work that we lose sight of who we are or even worse, lose the best parts of ourselves?” Why do we give up so much for our work?
The answer was terribly simple.
Work satisfies so many of our needs. It can satisfy our need to have stability, food, shelter, community, recognition, interest and passion. What else do we need when we have these organizational engines fueling our entire world?
Yet, when we put all our proverbial eggs in one basket – in this case – work, we forget that instead of work being a tool to hone ourselves against, we think work is our life.
We think that we orbit around work, instead of work orbiting around us.
Who you put at the center of your story matters.
When you think that everything starts and ends with work, a failed launch or rejection becomes much more than a situation that didn’t go as you planned. It becomes you. You take on all the glory of the wins and accomplishments to mean that you did a great job and you are so good at what you do. Yet, you will also take on the failures to mean that you didn’t do a great job and you’re not good at what you do.
When this happens, your internal peace is subject to the whims of the organization you are in, the clients you work with and the ups and downs of the economy.
You forget that you chose your work to help you fulfill certain needs, not all needs. The same thing happens in a relationship. We pick a partner and want them to be everything to us. Our cheerleader and our lover. Our friend and our coach. We know through experience that it doesn’t work well when we need other people to make us feel happy in every single way. It’s our job, not theirs.
What happens if you don’t work? What happens when your job changes? Does your happiness and satisfaction also change? Often, it does.
People will often go into depression when work isn’t going well. They will see disease manifest from stress.
Work is so tied to their internal barometer of stress, happiness and satisfaction that it feels impossible to see themselves outside of their work. Who are you when you’re not working? Someone who watches netflix? Someone who plays with kids? It may seem to be asking too much to say that you are someone outside of your work when you have so many other demands placed on you, but it is critical to uncover who you are when you’re not working and doing.
It makes life so much easier when you have a strong internal compass. A north star. This is often what we think about when we say spirituality. Not religion. It’s saying that I know who I am and my purpose isn’t only fulfilled in my work. It might be a big part of who I am in this lifetime, but it is not the only part. It is not even the biggest part.
It is a stretch to start to see your work as tiny and insignificant, when you’ve spent your entire life building your career. Yet, your spiritual growth will depend on it. Your leadership will depend upon it as well. The next growth and leap you will take requires you to let go of what has come before. It requires you to be objective and look at your life and work critically – not as if something is wrong – but with a new perspective.
What if your work wasn’t as important as you thought it was? What if you could do something else completely? What if you could be many things in this lifetime? What if you had a big and robust life outside of work and within work?
Most of our lives are lived within our heads. If you are constantly focused on work, your life will become your work.
When I work with my clients, we have big work goals because it’s fun to be ambitious. Yet, it’s not the only goal we have. We have big goals around mind/body connection, spirituality and relationships. We have goals that equate to stretching ourselves in ways that leave us feeling more whole, not drained.
We go deep and expose our thinking around what we truly believe in or understand because from there we have a firm footing. We know how to make decisions. We know what’s important. We know how to enjoy what life has to offer even more. We know that we’re not waiting for work to get our joy and excitement. We get it everywhere.
Life has so much more to offer you than your work. Your work has been and will always be a big part of who you want to be in this world and the way you want to impact the world, but it will not be your most important work.
What is your most important work?
You. You are your most important work.
Creating a healthy relationship with yourself and others, having joy and inspiration come from many avenues, living life with more presence and boldness and doing the things you’ve always wanted to do but never dared to do are what gives you a sense of who you are outside of work.
The strange thing is that when you make “you” your most important work, your work becomes more simple, less stressful and interesting. Why? Because you’ve figured out how to simplify, create less stress and find more things interesting. It is a win-win situation to work on you.
If you’re ready, I invite you to join me for Spiritual Achievement coaching. Figuring out what’s next just got easier when you have a roadmap and tools to help you dig deeper into your own journey of self discovery. Find out your blind spots and what your gifts are – get coached to a deeper level than you ever thought possible. This is what’s waiting for you. Reach out at www.mayempson.com/contact, today.
That’s it for this week. Have an amazing one and I’ll talk to you next time.