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Defined By Work

On this Labor Day, as many of us take a break from work, think about how much of your identity is defined by your job.  We spend approximately 8.8 hrs./day laboring during the work week, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.   Hopefully work gives you meaning, a sense of purpose, and an income to live on.  Work may also be something that gives you security, confidence, positive feedback, and a sense of accomplishment.  All of this is good until work and/or money becomes an obsession and is your only source of joy and fulfillment.Many of us bring work home with us either physically, mentally or both. Some view their entire identities through their jobs and struggle to find fulfillment in other areas of life which can make eventual retirement especially difficult.

How can you approach work differently?  Consider your retirement account or stock portfolio.  Do you have all of your savings invested in one or two stocks-probably not.  It’s important to diversify your portfolio and have multiple sources of growth and income.  The same holds true with life; we need multiple sources of purpose, fulfillment, and joy.  So we can’t put all of our energy into work at the exclusion of everything else since we may lose our job or eventually retire.  Diversifying our lives requires us to invest in relationships, activities, hobbies, community, and organizations that provide us with connection and satisfaction.  The key is to find and maintain balance with work and life.  Ask yourself: what gives me purpose and meaning in life other than work?  Often when we’re asked to describe our identity we quickly talk about our profession instead our roles as spouse, parent, friend, volunteer, teacher, mentor, or coach.

Consider defining yourself not just for what you do, but for who you are.  Our roles as spouse, parent, friend , or volunteer may better define our character than our job title and can have a greater impact on others.  People are more likely to remember you for the person you are and the impact you had on their lives.  Who you are represents your character, values, and persona that can positively influence others.  Most of us strive to be successful in life, but discount our significance.  Positively influencing others and making a difference in their lives through your actions and/or words creates significance.  Chances are your legacy will not be determined from your work, but rather your relationships.

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