Does it ever feel like your job is sucking the soul out of you? Is your work environment fueling a sense of powerlessness where you feel you're being mastered rather than the other way around--you've become a slave to the master of your work--you're trapped in a never-ending cycle of demands from everyone around you, urgent needs and To Do's, so you're drained of all energy at the end of the day? And this habitual pattern has repeated itself for years until you feel like there's no hope for anything better? Do you feel like you're on the proverbial hamster wheel, running and running and running, expending all your energy but really getting nowhere? One of my clients was feeling this way in deep and profound ways when he came to me. "What do I do? Is there anything I can do to get out of this vicious cycle?" he asked plaintively. "I've lost all of my passion and creativity! Can I get it back?"
One of the first things I did was affirm his courage and gumption to come see me. That in itself was a positive proactive step he was choosing in order to take back his life.
So many people get to that hamster wheel space and simply cave in to the feeling of being a victim: "There's nothing I can do about it. The never-ending demands are simply not things I have any control over. I mean, if I want this job, I have to put up with this vicious cycle."
But here's the thing: you are never a victim to your life!
True, you may work for an awful boss. Your team members might all act like jerks. You may never get affirmed and appreciated for your hard work. Colleagues may steal your ideas and take the credit. More and more work might keep getting dumped on you when you're already overwhelmed.
But you are never a victim to your life!
Here's what I mean by this. There are always areas of your life where you can and must take back your power and control. Let me prioritize the two most important ones: your Identity and your Energy. You simply cannot compromise on either of these without terrible consequences.
Our temptation is to equate our sense of identity with our work.
When someone asks us what we do, we typically say, "I'm a [and then state our job title or type of work]."
But notice that we're using an "I am" statement. That's a statement of being which is woefully incorrect and unhealthy.
The truth is, our job is simply something we do in our lives. It's not who we are. Huge distinction.
Unless we get this fundamental identity issue right, we'll always feel we lack control over our lives since we spend so much time at work under the direction and often control of a supervisor or boss or manager. Right? Even if you're a CEO you're still under the direction of the Board--you answer to them, in the end. Even if you're a self-employed entrepreneur, you're still answerable to your clients.
To take back control of your life, you must be clear on your identity and where it comes from.
Remember the Jews who moved to the land of Egypt in order to escape the terrible famine in their land. They ended up being subjugated in slavery to Pharaoh for over 300 hundred years. Their cruel task masters lorded control over their lives by forcing them to build bricks for the pyramids.
So what was their identity challenge? Their temptation was to view themselves as no more than slaves to another master. All they were valuable for was production and daily quotas. They felt powerless because in many ways they were powerless. They felt victims to their circumstances. They were slaves.
When I told this story to my client, he immediately resonated.
"That's exactly how I feel--like a slave to another master. I feel out of control. My whole identity is consumed around my work and how much and how well I produce. And so often I don't feel like I'm producing enough or I'm not producing enough quality and creativity. I feel like a loser or imposter."
Can you relate to that? I certainly can. I find it easy at times to slip back into this mindset of, "I don't think I'm good enough. I feel like a nobody. I'm not successful enough. I'm not producing value enough. Therefore I am not enough."
So the Jews had to get clear about their true identity. And in their environment, that was a gargantuan challenge!
What helped them get clear? What did they do to take back control for their lives in the most fundamental area?
Here's the next significant issue. It's engaging in strategies that empower us to align ourselves with our true identity.
Stay tuned for the next post. Effective living is all about energy management, not time management.
Here Are Some Reflection Questions for You to Answer (try writing your reflections down on paper or computer):
How would you state your personal identity? What words do you use to describe who you are at your very core, beyond what you do every day or the work or profession you have? What gives you your value? What are your true core values that drive your choices (the North Stars by which you navigate your paths forward)? Finish this identity sentence: "My value is in the truth that I am ..."
Be clear on your identity!
Looking for a Speaker or Coach?
If you or someone you know in your organization is looking for a keynote speaker or workshop teacher for events in your company, congregation, or association gatherings, I would be happy to come speak on this theme or others like it. And interested in strengths coaching? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or look at the Speaking or Coaching pages of this site.