Am I Moving Forward?

by Rick Whitted, Author of Outgrow Your Space at Work

moving forwardOften we use our careers to paint a “happy place” on our life’s canvas. Without realizing it, we make the success of our careers tantamount to our life’s progression. You can recognize it in expressions like:

“If I could only get the next job things would be…” Or,

“I don’t believe I’m valued where I work because I didn’t get…” Or,

“I’m not happy at work because I don’t have a passion for what I do…” Or,

“I’m working hard so that when the next opportunity comes up I’ll be…” Or,

“It’s so obvious that my boss (or company) doesn’t care about me, because no one asked me to…”

The American Psychological Association’s Stress in America study revealed that work creates stress in a higher percentage of American adults than does health and family responsibilities. Also, the latest release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that nearly 3 million people quit their jobs every month in this country. A statistic that has not changed much in two decades.

In most career discussions, I see a glare in the eyes, a deliberateness of tone, or firm facial expression that conveys intensity. Why are our careers so important? Why do they trigger such emotion? Why does life appear to be going so well when our careers are running on all cylinders? Yet, when our careers appear to be stuck, or going backwards, we feel like someone just broke up with us? There is no doubt our careers are important, but should it define how we feel about ourselves in a particular season in life?

It took me a long time to realize that I was using work to do something it was never meant to do—make my life complete. I was using work to give me something it was never meant to give—a sense of accomplishment. I was using it to answer the most important question we ask ourselves: Is my life moving forward?

 

I would say the reasons I worked were to provide for my family, earn a living, create stability, and support those that mattered most to me personally. Yet, work it self became the biggest threat and temptation from what I cherished most. The further I progressed along my career path, the things I “worked for” became less important than “the work” itself. My kids could see it, my spouse could feel it, and deep inside I knew it. But, I never paused to question it.

Our culture defines success as going from one level to another: from crawling to walking, grade school to college, single to married, or kids to grandkids. And, because we spend so much of our life on the stage of work (more than 50% of our awake time in a given work week), we subconsciously use our jobs to answer the biggest life question of all: AM I MOVING FORWARD. This is why when we meet people one of the first things we ask is, “So, what do you do?”

To begin to change this, I recommend two things:

First, BE AWARE. From birth our society, culture, and families have trained us to believe that a trophy should come with our accomplishments. As we become working adults, the most obvious medal tends to be a promotion. When you actually give this thought, it becomes easier to realize that YOU ARE USING CAREER PROGRESSION AS A MEASURE FOR WHERE YOU ARE IN LIFE. I’m sure I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, or haven’t already felt. Yet, you will never question this tendency if you don’t acknowledge it.

Secondly, figure out (or reacquaint yourself with) your LIFE VALUES. If everything else were lost, what is it that would keep your heart beating? As a believer, my value system is uniquely shaped by my faith. So, for me it is my relationship with my wife, children, parents and my siblings that drive me. It is the ability to make them smile, or to positively affect the lives of those around me. Knowing that allows me to direct all of my career choices in that direction.

I’ve found that if your life values and your career values are not the same, you will make career mistakes. The “next level” for your career, from a values perspective, may actually not be a bigger title, more money or expanded responsibilities. It may be job flexibility, scheduling, being considered a key player on the team, trusting those you work with, or finding meaning in the work you do. We are all made to “press toward the mark for the prize…” But if we are not careful we will fix our aim on status and stuff, instead of the “high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” When you can align of your values to your career decisions, you will not only be successful at work; you will fulfill Colossians 3:23. When you do that, you will thrive!

For more information about Rick Whitted, his best-selling book and his podcast, visit www.rawhitted.com.

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