Define your work without letting it define you

Freud once stated, "A man with a toothache cannot be in love," meaning simply that the attention demanded by the toothache doesn't allow him to notice anything other than his pain. In working with people going through job change, I often find Freud's principle to be confirmed. I see grown men ignoring their wives, avoiding their friends, watching too much TV, and overeating. I see women stop going to church, spend money they do not have, read romance novels rather than inspirational material, and snap at their kids when asked an innocent question. The "pain" of the job needs seem to overwhelm the health, vitality, and success they have in other life areas.

Going through job change provides a great opportunity to take a fresh look at your success in other areas. Make additional deposits of success in your physical well-being. The energy and creativity that can come from a sharp mind and body can generate the very ideas you need at this time. Take the kids for a cheap meal and enjoy the time together. Organize a pot luck with a group of your friends-you'll be surprised how many of them are going through a similar experience. Pick up a great book to read. Stay connected spiritually. You'll realize that in the scope of eternity, this event is probably a tiny spot on the time line.

In the common American model, the job is central. We are frequently more defined by what we do than by who we are. When meeting a new person, the conversation normally goes as follows: "Hi, John, I'm Dan. What do you do?" From that one brief answer, we make conclusions about that person's intelligence, education, income, and value to society. With this model, we get our total sense of worth from our work. All other aspects of our lives are forced to fit in around the job...if there is time. This leads to feelings of resentment, frustration, loss of control, and lack of balance. It also leaves us very vulnerable in that if something happens to that job, whether by circumstances or by our own choice, then we wonder, "Who am I?" That is what happens when our total identity and sense of worth are in our jobs.

What we need is a paradigm shift to a more balanced model. Your job-work-vocation-career has to incorporate how God has gifted you, what you want to accomplish, and how you want to be remembered. However, you need success equally in those other areas as well. You need a life plan with balance, not only a job. Remember, a job is simply one tool for a successful life.

Your goal should be to plan your work around your life, rather than planning your life around your work.

Improve your life: think like a rat

We talk about being in the rat race, but this statement is actually demeaning to the rats. Rats won't stay in a race when it's obvious that there's no cheese. The best-seller Who Moved My Cheese showed how even smart rats quickly look for new routes to follow when the cheese is gone. Humans, on the other hand, seem to get themselves into traps from which they never escape. Some research shows that up to 70 percent of white-collar workers are unhappy with their jobs-ironically, they are also spending more and more time working.

Looking at areas other than your career helps you develop clear patterns and commonalties that then help define what your career/job/business/vocation ought to be. This really is a reverse process but one that leads to true fulfillment. Too often, people choose a career or line of work because Uncle Bob did it or because they heard that you could make a lot of money doing it.

The Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes 5:10 that "the one who loves money is never satisfied with money, and whoever loves wealth [is] never [satisfied] with income. This too is futile" (HCSB). If money is the only reward of your job, you will begin to see deterioration in your life physically, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally.

I have to add an interesting side note. Proper alignment in doing work we love does not mean our families will be eating rice and beans. In fact, proper alignment releases not only a sense of peace and accomplishment, but money is likely to break in on you like an exploding dam.

In summary:

  • Recognize that your career is not your life. It is simply one tool for a successful life.
  • Don't put all your energies into one area. Be committed to achieving success in all areas of life.
  • Our physical health has a direct relationship to the energy and creativity we bring to our work.
  • Put your dream and a detailed plan of action into creating a new future.

Dan Miller is the author of 48 Days to the Work You Love.

Payment Options: LifeWay Account, MasterCard, Visa, Discover and American Express

LifeWay Accounts are for churches, ministries, and businesses only. Organizations having a not for profit status may also enjoy savings by not having to pay sales tax on qualifying products.

Your trusted source of Christian resources since 1891

LifeWay Christian Resources, Religious Goods, Nashville, TN