“Work is what horses die of. Everyone should know that” - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
I believe there exists a battle between being a human being and being a human doing. There is the false capitalistic belief that “I am what I produce” but this belief not only lacks a valid explanation of our ontological being, but it also frames our free, relaxation time as being, lazy unproductive, and ultimately this creates stress because we are not producing some type of work.
While the knee-jerk reaction to this issue is to say let go of your work and find meaning within yourself, I propose a different solution that can be implemented just as easily. Diversify your portfolio.
Now, what do I mean by that? I am certainly not saying you should get a second job or try thinning yourself out in more spaces than possible. I’m advocating that you strike a work-life balance by investing more time and energy towards activities and people that make you feel like your authentic self and building a side hustle that counts as work but nourishes your sense of self.
According to a Harvard Business Review, both employed and recently unemployed workers were asked what they find valuable about themselves. From both groups, it was found the people ground their sense of identity mostly outside of their work. Participants responded with answers like I am a great parent I am a good communicator, I am an athlete, I am a family-oriented person, etc. although we invest so much time into our work, we rarely identify strongly with our sense of work. Coming to this realization, we are called to use our time outside of work to build a strong sense of identity with the remaining time and energy we have to use.
As I am currently working a 40-hour full-time summer job, it can be difficult at times to fill these other buckets. After biking 4 miles each way to commute to work, my willpower and energy levels are often unwilling to perform activities such as meditating, socializing with friends, writing script for the podcast, or even prioritizing my own rest and well-being. Yet, by constantly reminding myself of my top priorities and identities, I am better able to motivate myself to perform the activities that define who I am. If the Harvard Business Review asked me “what do you value in yourself, chance?“ I would say I value myself as a runner, as a writer and student, as a son friend, and partner, and as a person who is mindful, health-conscious, and balanced. As James Clear teaches us in Atomic Habits, forming a strong sense of identity will make the activities that better us obvious and bad habits impossible to reasonably perform. By diversifying my portfolio and viewing myself as more than just a guy who works at the bike shop, I am able to maintain an independent sense of self and thereby support my well-being which often goes to the wayside.
Lastly, I turn to the cure-all self-help principle to deal with this work identity crisis. Start a side hustle. Craft a sense of work that aligns with the person that you currently are and the person you want to become. Brand yourself as an influencer, begin writing that blog, start documenting your life through YouTube videos or VSCO posts, start sharing your cooking skills, become a videographer, or share whatever skill on you possess on skill share or some other learning platform. I don’t blame people for falling into the fallacy that what we produce is who we are. The empiricists would argue that our predicates are the only things that we can know about other people in this life. Thus, producing something that aligns with your sense of self channels your labor into a product that aligns with you. Rather than burning the candle from both ends in attempting to strike a complete work-life balance, a side hustle allows you to blur the lines between work and life as you fall in love with your work and find beauty from all things in your life. Remember as Ryan Holiday reminds us, we are called human beings, not human doings, for a reason.
Learn to diversify your sense of self because not only will it support your well-being but a strong sense of identity will make you a better worker both for yourself and in collaboration with your team.
Have an awesome week!
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