23 Dec 2020

You are not your job - An unconventional approach to your next job

By Paddy O' Leary

Studies philosophy at Trinity College Dublin.

His favourite music is the inside of a bookshop.

Email: connect@paddyoleary.com

This article is the second of a series of four articles titled ‘An unconventional approach to your next job’ dropping each week for the rest of December.

“What do you do?” We’ve all heard and asked this question too many times than we’d like to remember. Some might say it’s a way to get a sense of who somebody is, what they’re about. It helps in continuing the conversation when we meet new people in the hopes that what they do is somehow fundamental to who they are.

While our work can be the source of great meaning and purpose in our lives, we are not our job. We are not the amount of hours we clock in, the money we’re paid or even the things we get paid for. We as individuals and our lives are not defined by how we happen to make a living. A job also doesn’t need to provide us with all we want out of life. If we are to wait around until we find the perfect job that ticks all of our boxes, we might sooner end up in a box before we find what we’re looking for. We are not saying that a job isn’t important. Of course it is. But as most of us during this last year are beginning to realize, there is much more to life than what we get paid for.

So instead of asking “what do you do?”, we might ask “what do you create?”. If you find yourself or the other person giving you a knee-jerk bullshit response, in some form of “I’m not creative”, it is your responsibility to rid them of this self-limiting belief immediately. Creating or being creative is not limited to the traditional art forms and whether you are a professional at it or not. Creativity is by definition, as wide and varied as you can imagine. Some people might create delicious homemade bread, others create a loving home for their family, others still might create comedy sketches. The point is we don’t all need to become ‘professional’ for us to experience the value in the act of creating. Of course, being paid a living for these passions can be a bonus, but monetary payment doesn’t need to be the standard from which we measure the value of creating itself. It's important to remember the great satisfaction we can get out of other areas of our lives independent from our jobs.

So if we let go of the idea that our job needs to tick all of the boxes, how else are we to decide which position is right for us? There are no universally correct answers to this question. This requires an honest look at the totality of our own current life which includes our relationships, our hobbies and passions, our health and our job.

In this way we can assess which boxes are or can be ticked by different aspects of our lives. This then takes the pressure off on how much a job needs to provide for us to be satisfied. For example, perhaps we’re a football coach in our local town. This will probably provide us with plenty of meaning and social value. If we already get these benefits from a hobby like coaching, we may not need to get it from our job.

Instead we can really narrow down on what is currently lacking in our lives and decide upon our next job by considering which one would best provide what we want. While at the same time letting go of the imaginary notion of a perfect job which allows us to get on with the less desirable aspects and focus on the positive ones. You might have got to the end of this article now without the sense of completion inside that usually comes from finding an answer or next course of action. It might be worth repeating, we're not giving you any answers because we trust you can do that for yourself.

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