Work Stress Can Increase When You Become Your Job
If you work for someone else, you are in essence trading your life for money. While we should all be grateful for the ability to earn money and pay for the necessities, this article is about something else. It’s about when work becomes our sole identity, and the huge life rift it creates that many don’t see until it’s way too late.
I’m a professional working in Coprorate America. While I do have a really cool job, one that many people would love to have, I too can get too carried away with it. There’s a saying that if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. It’s true, to a certain extent.
I pretty much go to work and tell stories through the digital medium. Without getting too much into it, I play with cutting edge tools for content creation every day. I use everything from a pencil and paper to a specialized visual effects software, and pretty much everything in-between. It’s a dream job.
While the job is really awesome, it’s not without it’s drawbacks.
There are long hours, and the stress to get shows out the door can be a bit crazy. That, and the fact that I constantly need to stay up to date on cutting edge animation and visual effects technology and techniques. Oh, and I’m sitting down in front of a computer pretty much all day, which is not very good physically, for a number of reasons.
As cool as the job is, I did get very carried away with it at one point, and it was causing me tremendous stress. The problem was that I cared TOO much. I became the job, and saw myself as only what I did. Yeah, I defined my entire amazing human existence on this planet as being what I did for a living.
Mindfulness To the Rescue
Mindfulness and meditation helped me see the error of my ways. I was completely stressed out over my job, and as times got tough, was completely fearful of layoffs, the economy, and losing what I believed was my sole purpose on Earth. Crazy, huh?
In one instant in meditation the answer came to me.
If you are reading this and are stuck in a job you hate, or have to work 3 jobs just to make ends meet, you more than likely already know what I’m about to say. You’re living it. You know that what you “do” is not “who you are.” You’re a survivor and bless you for that.
I Stopped Caring
That’s right. You read that correctly. I’d stopped caring about the work. I had a realization that I’m way more than what I “do”. I am a living, breathing, amazing creation of the universe, and I’m free to do whatever I choose, given the proper supporting circumstances, of course.
We all have responsibilities, but that doesn’t mean that we need to care so much for what we “do” every day. We don’t need to identify ourselves with that. What we do for money, no matter how cool it may be, or how important we believe it to be, is NOT who we are.
So I stopped caring. I’d stopped caring about pleasing all of my bosses. I’d stopped caring it I was seen as “one of the team”. I’d certainly stopped caring if I was perceived as a “team player”, which basicall means “indentured servant.” I’d stopped caring.
I see work now for what it is. A way to provide money for my family and myself. That’s it. No more.
Something truly magical happened after this too. My output got better, as did the quality of my work. In shifting my attitude, it freed up energy wasted on stressing and gave me a boost in the creativity and production area of what I do. Amazing…
It’s a plus that I’d worked my tail off to land the “dream job”, but that “dream” can become a nightmare when that’s what you believe you are. When the title you have becomes the be-all-end-all of your existence, that’s when you need to step back and use mindfulness. You need to see your error and fix it, lest you continue to be a slave to the rat-race and squander your life away without even knowing why you do what you do.
That’s a stretch of a last paragraph, but really think about it. Are you “just what you do for a living?”
I see people get so wrapped up in their titles it’s sickening. They drive around in expensive cars that they lease. They live in expensive homes that they rent. They wear designer clothes that they put on credit… and for what? To impress other people?
In many cases, yes… sad…
Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to have nice things. The problem occurs when we identify ourselves with the material things in life while ignoring the ethereal. We lose ourselves and continue to feed the beast.
Stop feeding the beast, get your life back, prioritize where your time and energy go, and watch your value skyrocket. You are more valuable than you realize. If you stress about caring about your job, you are prime for this shift!
Time Is The Only Thing We Can’t Get Back
Are you really happy putting all of your energy and precious time in to a job that just makes someone else obscenely wealthy? Take a look at your bosses. Take a look at your board of directors (look up “interlocking directorete”). You are using up your precious life to enrich these few people even more than they are already. Start to take back some of that time.
Or, if you are one of those people, and you are on a board or you are an executive, how much of your life are you putting into something, and for what reasons? Really search here. This is a soul searching exercise. You might be lucky and have your vision solely aligned with your life and energy, and if so, great. How many people working for you right now have helped you get there? Are you sharing the wealth? Are you really happy?
There’s an article on Huffington Post about this topic, and it gave me the idea to write this. Aptly called, “Want to Be Happy At Work? Care Less About It.”
When talking about stress and caring about your job, the author wrote:
For people like me and my close-to-quitting friend, the concept of giving anything less than our best doesn’t cross our minds. It simply isn’t an option. We set high standards for ourselves and are disappointed and frustrated when we can’t always achieve those standards. It’s that impending anxiety of failure that caused my friend to believe: “If I can’t do my job well, I don’t want to do it at all.”
But the brutal, honest truth is that many bosses don’t notice who is giving 100% and who is doing the minimum to get by. If you relate to this story so far, I’m willing to bet that your 80% of effort is most people’s 100%. So, by caring less, you’re actually caring just enough…
It’s great to want to be helpful and make a difference at work, but you have to take care of yourself first. You aren’t helping anyone if you burn out and quit. Putting in slightly less effort in times of high stress doesn’t mean you don’t care about your job; it means you care about yourself more.
Putting Yourself Before Your Company is NOT Selfish
The reality is this, even though many can’t see it. You are trading your life for money. You are giving almost everything you are, and your most productive years to an effort to make a very small group of people extremely wealthy. This is not cynical, it’s truth. The value that you put in if you’re “a team player” is WAY less than the money that the company is most likely earning on your work. If not, you’d be laid off. It’s economics and business 101.
Therefore, the way I see it, we are very GENEROUS people. We are giving what is most precious to ourselves, our energy and time, to better the lives to those who employ us. Granted, many companies do produce services and products that better all of us, and certain public sector work benefits everyone. Doctors, teachers, some lawyers, first responders, nurses, some clergy, etc..
Not all work goes to benefit the investment class, but much does. You, me, and many others give our lives till retirement supporting a system that is becoming less and less equitable. Our share of the wealth is diminishing unless we are, as some of you may be, part of that %1.
So I say this. Stop caring so much about your “career”. That doesn’t mean do a bad job, it just means that we should all live a little bit more and stop obsessing over things that are, in the end, not all that important. Work, no matter how “cool”, is still work. How many of you would go to work if you stopped getting paid? Really… Think this one through.
Instead, take some time to de-stress, and watch Office Space if you still don’t get what I’m saying.
Feel free to disagree with me, but ONLY after you’ve really given this article some thought…
Then respond 🙂