Monday, October 17, 2011

My Life Job Description

I have been thinking a lot about the state of my career lately.

I have identified myself as a graphic designer since 1984, when I got my first job at a greeting card company. A few years later, I started my own company. For over 27 years, I have labeled myself "graphic designer" - and during most of the time, I could confidently add the word "successful" to that moniker. During a good deal of my career, I also based nearly 100% of my self identity on that career.

However, with the changes in the economy, being a graphic designer has become a part-time enterprise for me. So lately when I think of the myself as a graphic designer, the association is accompanied by stress and negative feelings. Many descriptors come to mind, mostly negative - none are currently synonymous with the word "success".

If I were to base my estimation of my life solely on career right now, it would not be an attractive endeavor; it would be about as productive as hopping on a butt-kicking machine for a protracted round of gluteal smacks. I include the diagram above to remind myself how ridiculous that would be. And I need to be reminded frequently, because I engage in such mental self-spankings more often than I care to admit.

I've thought of a way to break this habit. The solution sounds simple enough: throw out the equation that states "career = life". However, after years of embracing this formula, I realize it's going to take some practice before I can abandon it completely.

One of the techniques I am using to break my acceptance of this faulty equation create a "life job description". Step one is to realize that my career is merely a fraction of my overall life job description.

This weekend, I declared that part of my life job description is "to be a good father".

I worked diligently at that job, especially this weekend. Beth was out of town, so I devoted most of the weekend to being with Rebecca - and not just being with her geographically. I paid close attention to her, dialogued with her, shared experiences with her. I made sure that I was as "present" as I could be.

We went to the farmer's market, I took her to her tennis lesson, then to the Fall Festival at Hickory Nut Gap Farm, then for ice cream. Once we returned home, I cooked dinner, and followed it up a backyard fire (complete with marshmallow roasting). Finally, we finished watching a kid's movie we had started. Sunday morning, we went to the local tennis courts and practiced together. I needed to spend much of the rest of the day painting the remainder of the exterior of my work shed, and I made sure to include Rebecca. She was a great help, wedging into a tight area and painting the portion I could not reach.

The best aspect of the weekend was that we didn't argue at all. Rebecca said that we may have had one minor disagreement, but she can't even remember what it was about.

By making "being a good father" part of my life job description, I was able to regard the weekend as a rousing success.

The next step is to further expand the list that constitutes my life job description. Doing so will help me feel more well-rounded, as well as minimize the negative impact of any elements that aren't going as well as I would like. I will make it a point to focus more on those list items which foster success and a sense of accomplishment.

Having many elements within my life job description allows for ebb and flow - some elements may take prominence while others may become less important. Creating a broad and flexible life job description opens the door for more opportunity. Who knows - maybe the element in my life job description that I currently categorize as my career will shift or change some day?

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