Meaningful work is a preferred method by which the majority of people wish to get many of their goals in life. Well, this is at least my firm belief. The work in-of-itself is not “the goal” or the be-all end-all purpose for our lives; it is a vehicle that moves us down a chosen path. Albeit a simple concept, it took me a while to internalize its meaning and applicability. Many people get caught up in their careers while losing the connection to themselves. The inner person may become twisted and warped resulting from a lack of internal alignment between personal values, goals, and actions.
Looking back, I understand why my mentors and leaders placed a high value in the idea that work or a career is a method of achievement and not the purpose of life or the central point of our identity. My executive coach accelerated my learning in this area by incessantly challenging me to question my long-held beliefs. I would seek shelter in the safety of what got me to that point before gently (or not so gently) pulling the rug out by merely questioning me in a way that cut right through the layers of obfuscation I had carefully constructed. This is what I needed for me to realize the fallacy of my earlier logic that put work ahead of everything else and allowed me the freedom to explore new concepts.
The difference for me arrived when I understood that work and career are a vehicle of life and should be designed to give an opportunity for me to achieve, explore, and expand whom I am as a person while providing a valuable service to my firm and the needed financial support to my family.
I work because I want to work; where I want to work; and I am with the people I want to be around. Work is not optional for me; I have to work if I want to fund my family’s lifestyle and prepare us for retirement. Still, I work because I want to work, and I work where I want to work. My career is personally fulfilling, but it is not who I am or what I do with my life. Work is no longer my identity. It is part of me but not all of me.
As I shifted and understood my real priorities, changes flowed naturally. I have lower stress, a happier life, and even more professional success. I did not realize how much easier things become when you are aligned in thinking, values, and actions. By putting first things fist, I support the needed alignment for both personal and professional success.