• Eve Arnold

Me and My Work Identity

Photo by Toby Christopher on Unsplash

“This isn’t who I am, this isn’t me.”

Someone could tell you fifteen times over that what you do for a living isn’t the value of who you are, yet it doesn’t stop us thinking it is. 

We live in a society that values job titles, fancy cars and high salaries. Whether it’s right or it’s wrong, it’s true. Money, to some extent, does rule the world.

With that in mind it can be quite hard to figure out what you want to do with your life. Understanding your passion, how you can add the most value and what job is truest to you, are all questions that the millennial generation are painfully asking.

This feel of needing to provide value and worth to the world is a heavy weight to carry.

The Metric of Happiness

The rise of the entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk types has paved the way for us to think (as if we couldn’t before) about what brings us joy over what lines our pockets. Vaynerchuk is often telling the world that he knows numerous millionaires who are wildly unhappy and he equally knows lots of people that earn circa $50,000 and love life.

We then are at a crossroads. With society telling us to get the highest paying job, take the money and then the successful types telling a different story. Steve Jobs, Jim Carrey, Vaynerchuk all have spoken about this idea of finding something you love.

It can lead us to a case of mistaken identity. We can get so far down the rabbit hole and get completely overwhelmed by what we’ve chosen to pursue. We’d originally subscribed to this idea of what society expects of us and now 2 years down the line we’re questioning everything. You can make the decision to ‘only do it if for the money’ but if that’s not true to who you are, at some point you’ll question it… won’t you?

If true happiness is following your passion and you’re not sure you have a passion, should you just follow the money until you become passionate about something? Or does that make you a sell-out?

Conflicting Information and Unmanaged Expectations

It’s probably safe to say that we all have days of worry. That day when you roll out of bed and think… is this really me? The me who is passion about everything but this? Is this really what I have decided to do with my life? For a few days you’ve been pondering your life and it concludes in a heap of uncertainty, probably on a Sunday night.

The first few months of anything is always interesting and fun. New people, new experiences, new challenges. Then somewhere between months three and four you start to notice things and ask questions. In a 9–5 that will inevitably be questions that surround authority, adding value and commuting or a combination of all three.

At the start of anything; a relationship, a new pet, a new house, a new anything, you will be excited and taken with the novelty. We love new things. After a while though, it becomes the norm which gives us space to think.

The Best Case Scenario

On those low days, the ones where you’re questioning whether this career is really something that you want to pursue, you will feel like the best outcome is barely satisfactory. You worry that you will live a life of mediocrity, everything will be fine. Not good, not bad, just fine.

That might be quite alarming to you, someone that you thought would go places and do great things. The prospect of things just being average and you not achieving a great deal in your life is peculiar and haunting.

The truth is, we all have days of uncertainty. For some people they are less frequent and for others they are more so but everyone has a time where they ponder what they are doing with their life.

It’s human nature to look around and see what the rest of us are doing.

You is a Concept Made By You

You will be many things over your life. You are many things now. From sibling to parent, friend to enemy, house owner to renter. There are many things you are as a product of your circumstances and environment. More than that, there are many things you are because of the environment you create. The environment inside your mind.

I don’t buy this idea that we come out of the womb with strengths in negotiation, public speaking and communication. I completely get that our environment early on could help us build these skills but equally you can create that environment later on and build those skills.

In short, you can be whatever you want to be. You’ll already create who you are by doing the things you do. If you write everyday you can call yourself a writer, if you sing everyday call yourself a singer.

The problem though, is when the things we do day in day out don’t align with how we make a living.

Choose Who You Want to Be – Who is ‘Me’

Me is something you or I make up. If you decide ‘me’ is a rockstar or a DJ you can become that. The important part is the conversation you are having with yourself.

If you have a desire to be someone or be something you can be, you just need to bridge the gap between what you do now and what you want to be doing.

So if you want to become a runner and right now you run once a month, you need to work at getting that up to 3 times a week. And then, you can call yourself a runner.

When it Comes to Work – Me

When it comes to work things get a little bit more complicated and that’s because work is made up of many things. It’s not just writing or reading or communicating, it’s a combination of all of those things. On the days where you’re doing more of the stuff you don’t like you’ll find yourself questioning why on Earth you are doing this. On the days you are doing more of the stuff you do like, you might find you are quite positive about this work thing.

Those days are to be expected. When I was getting fairly pissed off with having the same conversations with myself, I found it helpful to document my happiness. Over the course of the month I would log what I was doing in the make sure I documented two key things:

  1. What I was doing in the day: data entry, presenting, meetings, writing, personal development, phone calls, data analysis, organising, setting up things, creating content, emailing, diary management… whatever else.

  2. Rate your happiness: create a scale 1–5 or 1–10 and every day mark down where you are at. It might be a good idea to get a baseline of where you are at each day for a week for context. An average week with focusing on work stuff could be quite telling about how your mood fluctuates naturally.

If you create a system of logging how you are feeling every day and log down everything you completed that day, you’ll get a sense of where you are at. After a few weeks you’ll get an understanding of what tasks relate to your mood. You might see a trend that every time you have day-long meetings you are miserable.

Use the Data to Your Advantage

Once you’ve monitored your data for the month and have collated circa 31 scores of happiness and correlating moods, you’ll be able to figure out where you unhappiest days are and what tasks relate to those. You can use that data to figure out which parts of your days are getting you the most down. And you can start to figure out how to increase the amount of the stuff you do like.

Who we are or who we want to be is all within our power. You create the idea of yourself, ‘me’ is whoever you want it to be.

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