Monday, January 7, 2008

Serenity Tip: Create a New Mantra

On the heels of the most recent discussion on this blog about how to identify serenity when you've got it, I'd like to add a mantra:

I am not my work.

I know, it chafes. As self-employed people, we pour so much of our hearts and souls and intellects and emotions into the job that at some point it becomes tempting to merge with it. It isn't just a fulfilling, and sometimes erratic, part of our lives, it is our lives. It isn't just part of our identity. It becomes the whole thing.

If you're like me, there's even a bit of a swagger to it: Yeah, I run my own business. What do you do? Oh--sit behind a desk every day doing someone else's bidding? That must feel... safe.

Yikes. Just like there's a difference between pride in making self-employment in a field you love actually support you and arrogance, there's a difference between your job and you.

I had a hard time with this one at first: My job is basically my thoughts. I'm a sole proprietorship. In a very real sense, Iam my job, right?

Not really. Even the IRS recognizes a difference between you and work--you can't deduct everything, after all. And my job is my thoughts--it's creative. But I'm not just my thoughts, am I? This gets very philosophical very fast. But it's a good question to ask. What else am I? I'm the things I love, I'm how I treat the people I love, I'm how I treat the people I hate, I'm my feelings, I'm my spirituality. I just am.

But most important, when it comes to serenity, this is one of those techniques for practicing nongrasping. When I was a newspaper reporter, my job was my entire identity. I was a workaholic, as I've already said. So when I left, I went into crisis. I didn't have a life outside work. I didn't have anything that gave me a sense of wellbeing or self-esteem. It very quickly became clear how unmanageable my approach to my self-concept had become.

Nongrasping frees us from suffering. So when a client rejects a marketing effort, when the work is draining, when the checks aren't flowing, remembering that you're not your job can free you from feeling like this is something you have to fix. And remembering that you're not your job when everything is fabulous and everyone lovbes you and you're rolling in dough can free you from the delusion that it will always be this way. Neither is a reflection of you. It's just business. Both of those are part of the job. But they aren't a reflection of who you are as a person.

When you're off work, whenever you're obsessing about things you can't control and that are keeping you from enjoying family and friends, practice saying to yourself:

I am not my job.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love to say, "Life is not just 9-5."

For me, 9-5 is what pays my bills. My 'life' is what happens outside of those hours. Some people are lucky to do what they love in that time, but if you're not one of them, take heart. It *is* possible to have a wonderful life outside of work.

"I am not my job" is excellent, too.