With work, I fear most feeling trapped.
This is the feeling that I need income, someone else, a particular job to help me to support my living.
I continue to get caught up in this fear from time to time. But, I keep a couple practices (or philosophies) that help me to lessen it’s impact and any validity of a needing to feel trapped.
To lessen need in the fate of my work, career and livelihood, I do the following two things:
1. I keep my identity small (this is the one I need the most work with)
2. I keep my needs small
These practices help me to increase the number of options I have in work and life and lessens my dependence upon others.
If you share the same fear, I suggest you try these two concepts on for yourself. In this article, I’m going to begin with talking about identity. In a future article, I’ll discuss needs.
Keeping Your Identity Small
I’ve built my own understanding of this concept from primarily two sources.
The first being an article shared with me by a friend, Paul Graham’s “Keep Your Identity Small.” http://www.paulgraham.com/identity.html
Graham posits that the more integrated someone’s identity is into a topic or discussion, the less clear their thinking and ideas become. He uses the example of religion and politics. As people identify with one political party or another, or one religion or another, odds are you cannot have a useful discussion. By definition, the individual is partisan.
Graham continues to say this idea is not just about “what discussions to avoid, but how to have better ideas.” And, I agree. And, I take that further into how you can approach work and life.
If you identify as a CEO, then the idea of doing anything different could be rather startling. And, believe it or not, there are plenty of things available for you to do.
You may risk pushing too hard on pursuing a profession that you may not love but have attached to your identity. For a time, a friend of mine pursued rapping. After a bit of a falling out from the pursuit he wrote me an email stating this exact thing, he wasn’t sure how much he actually enjoyed the activity vs. Sunk too much of his identity into becoming a rapper.
With this more expanded concept, the view of possibilities for work is a bit more open.
The Professional vs. The Amateur
I originally was introduced to this concept of the “professional vs. The amateur” in Stephen Pressfield’s book, The War of Art.
Pressfield, in a similar theme to Graham writes “The amateur…over identifies with his avocation, his artistic aspiration. He defines himself by it.” He continues to say “…the amateur composer will never write his symphony because he is overly invested in its success and over terrified of its failure.”
Press field goes on to say the professionals (including himself)…”We do not over identify with our jobs. We may take pride in our work, we may stay late and come in on weekends, but we recognize that we are not our job descriptions.”
In the earlier days of my professional career (so long! 2 years!), I was more consumed with the successes and failures of my projects and work that it would lead me to procrastination. Perfectionism as a form of procrastination. I would be far more consumed with how what I did was to be received, than my doing the work at all.
Through identifying how attached I was to the work, and how I thought my work being received would affect my identity, I relaxed a bit on this notion, and have been able to take more action and re-align what I’m doing with my truest purpose. To learn.
I felt in making a conscious effort to “turn pro,” I’ve left behind me my desires to wait for inspiration, leaving my work much more stable than volatile right now.
In these two sources, I’ve found a means to weaken the clasp that identity and ego have on performance and my work. I remain open to the possibility that I could be a CEO today, but Bohemian tomorrow. And, most importantly, I’m doing the work.