The philosophy behind Eat Your Career is that work can be a nourishing, enriching life experience. That’s a tall order, I realize.
I really do believe that work is a very important part of life. When you’re not happy with your career, it can impact all other areas of life. Your mental, physical and emotional health can suffer. Your relationships and financial security can suffer. Your whole world can become more difficult and painful.
I know because I’ve personally experienced it.
But I also believe that we have to keep perspective. For many years, I placed too much importance on my career. I was overly invested. That meant, when things were going right, I was on top of the world. When things were going wrong, I was in the absolute pits of despair.
I let my career happiness dictate my life happiness.
That’s not the goal. Yes, your career is an important part of your life. But it’s not the ONLY important thing. It’s not even the MOST important thing—though it might feel that way at times.
When things aren’t great at work, we do have to pay attention. We need to figure out what the problem is and make efforts to fix it. After all, for most of us, the only thing we do more than work is sleep. Anything that absorbs that much of our time and energy is worth a little investment. Plus, for most of us, this is our livelihood we’re talking about. You can’t exactly ignore the problems and still sleep at night.
But we don’t have to completely tie our wellbeing to work. Emotional investment is only healthy to a degree. When it goes overboard, we’re abdicating our happiness to something that is outside of our control. I firmly believe that we have a lot of power in the situation, but ultimately many things are determined by outside forces.
I believe it’s important to care about your career and the work you do. That’s part of what makes for a “nourishing” professional life. But we have to remember the other aspects of life that are also important. We can’t let this one area rule all others.
It requires a delicate balance—one that is difficult to truly quantify. A little emotional investment is natural and helpful. But too much and you run the risk of losing perspective. Work becomes the source of your happiness or lack of it. That’s a lot of pressure to put on your career.
Over the years, I’ve come to see my career as a cherished aspect of my life. It challenges me and brings a sense of fulfillment like no other. But it is no longer the “master” over me, the “servant.” I am responsible. When I have bad days at work (which I still do with some regularity), I don’t let it impact the other, equally important, areas of my life. I look at it thoughtfully, figure out what to do differently the next day, and then shift my attention. I focus on my loved ones, my personal hobbies, my spiritual faith.
I remind myself that life is so much more than a bad day at work.
Do you struggle to find that balance of emotional investment at work? Or do you think you’ve nailed it? Please share in the comments below!