I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing an amazing career, with many high highs and nearly as many low lows. It was much later that I realized I had allowed my identity to be directly tied to my successes at work. I co-founded my first business at 24 years old and it was one of the most exciting and terrifying times of my life. Our company experienced TREMENDOUS growth and within 2 years of beginning it was just grossing just over $5 million dollars a year in sales.
My confidence was high, I really thought I understood who I was and what I was offering as a person and a business. I worked, and worked and worked some more…iterating, evolving and changing. The machine had become my baby, but it was more than that…it became WHO I was.
For years I had incredible successes over successes, so I did not even realize that I had identified who I was with what I did. Then there came a point that I began to struggle meeting those continued successes. Everyday seems like a battle and a grind to get things accomplished, I was overwhelmed and stretched way too thin. Then we took another blow as the economy came crashing down. It was a scramble to revamp our business model, all the while seeing the sales slow and margins shrink.
I tried to bolster my resolve, I’ll work harder, innovate more, I can do this! When I made this commitment something strange began to happen; the more I tried to hold on, to get a grip, to make it work…the more that I lost control. This was a business with 170 team members and I was not adequately engaging them or allowing them to grow. The reality unfolded that I was stifling my business, my staff and in turn stifling myself.
Ultimately, I was pushed out of the business and it crushed me personally. In the months that followed I felt battered, defeated and exceptionally lost. It took me years of contemplative assessment to understand that when my accomplishments became fewer and farther between (and ultimately stalled), I equated that to my self-worth and I began to spiral. I had allowed myself to become a reflection of my work, and who was I without my work?
Upon this realization, I experienced a shift in my perception that lead me to learn to never identify yourself with your actions. You are not what you do. No matter what you do or where you live, these criteria DO NOT DEFINE WHO YOU ARE. When we choose to live by this false identity and draw our security from it, we are always in need, always dissatisfied, and really only focused on our needs simply because nothing is ever enough. We are left with an insatiable desire to search for fullness and completeness, but never finding it. We are continuously trying to fix, change, or re-arrange ourselves or our personal environment. This puts us in a position of lack and need, which pushes us to try and hold on tighter to control of our lives.
This can be said for so many facets of our lives; careers, relationships, physically and financially. Life eludes us, people fail us, and ultimately we are miserable.
This is a choice, the opportunity lies within each of us.