Remember the story about the five blind men who stumble upon an elephant and describe it as a wall, a tree trunk, a snake, etc. on account of having come upon the elephant’s torso, foot, trunk? The idea is that each of their descriptions fit specific parts of the animal’s body, but none was able to take in the pachyderm in its entirety.
Do, we too, identify ourselves with our designations, on the basis of our social standing, our relationships, our abilities? But then again, our jobs occupy 75% of our waking hours, and our careers make us the persons we are, so it’s not easy to describe ourselves other than in terms of our occupations and our most-recent achievements.
It all boils down to whether you believe that the whole equals or whether it stands in excess of the sum of its parts. Is your existence defined by your accomplishments, past and present, or has the fact that you have lived it all enhanced your perception, broadened your focus and widened your prospects? Are you the sum of your personal victories, or are you a person, a thinker, first, with a number of achievements under your belt?
Why is this important? Because if you are a self first, and then a list of things you successfully accomplished, then you can stand apart from your strengths and weaknesses and decide the direction of your life.
However, if you ARE what you DO, then your organisation and your boss determine where your life is headed. And if suddenly your achievement is nullified or your record is destroyed, you are reduced to nothing.
There are two ways out of this situation.
1. Choose as an occupation something that is so personally fulfilling to you that your core celebrates the fact that the self that is you is synonymous with the work that you do. This is possible if you’re running your own business, or if you are completely in control of the work you do (which is unrealistic for any employee, however creative his task at work).
2. Accept what work you get, but don’t let it define the person who you are. You might work as an engineer, or as a salesman, or as a teacher like I do, but you are more, and are capable of more than your best achievements in your workplace.
Which means that you’re not specifically proud of any successes or put off by any failures at work. It means that you can easily change jobs, from engineer to salesman. It means that you can take risks, and that it’s alright to fail, because there will always be another job, another way of paying the bills because freedom is having OPTIONS!
And at some point you realise that there’s something you’re really proud of having achieved. Others might have done it better, but it’s a new boundary you’ve crossed, a new level you’ve reached. And if you look carefully at all THESE accomplishments, you know that these are the times when you have lived. And these help you find out what it really means to be you.
And if you add together as many moments like these as you can remember, you will find what for you is the dream job. Your purpose, your passion, your raison d’etre, the one thing that could bring tears to your eyes.
So, which moments of your life so far are you proudest of? And can you leverage these to define a more satisfying future life for yourself? Asking yourself this question will almost always yield answers, whether you define yourself independent of your job or whether you’re mentally chained to your designation.
Michelle D’souza is a location-independent writer. She used to be a workaholic; she still is a perfectionist. Check out her blog here.