Has Your Work Become Your Identity?
Updated: Sep 6, 2019
We pour a great amount of our personal energy into the work that we do, in fact we often introduce ourselves first as our professions. “Hello, I’m Amy and I am a [insert professional title]”. If your title was gone tomorrow, who would you be?
Nonprofit leaders often get involved in an organization due to a connection to the mission or cause. Someone who is affected by a certain issue has the innate desire to make it better for the next person. While this is a key factor in harnessing passion and drive to tackle the big problem the organization is seeking to solve, if not careful, a dedicated leader can find oneself pouring so much into a mission that the identity of the cause can begin to spill over and become the identity of the leader. This can impact the health of the leader and culture of the entire organization.
If we view this from another lens, we can examine the real and present issue of burnout in the nonprofit sector. Burnout can have a negative connotation to it suggesting that someone somehow should have prevented themselves from working so hard. I challenge us to go a bit deeper and examine if we are finding our sense of purpose with what we do rather than who we are? Are we finding organizational goals to be more important than our health and wellbeing? When was the last time we allotted time for our minds to refresh and deeply ponder our higher purpose? If we aren't getting these things figured out as leaders, can we expect our staff to healthily balance the ongoing demands?
I find this topic of personal identity to be one of the bigger challenges of navigating purpose-driven leadership in the modern world. A world that tells us that we need to achieve certain milestones to be successful; a world that normalizes exhaustion and being constantly connected; a world that suggests if you aren’t giving it all for your cause, than you may not be committed enough to lead.
Friends, if I have learned anything while on my own personal journey of understanding my identity is not rooted in my work, I have learned that I am completely whole and have been given all the acceptance I need before I even walk in the door of an office, meeting or presentation. I am not filled by the impressions, acceptance or achievements I can gain; I am filled by my set of personal beliefs, values, and roles in my family/community. When I prioritize and align those things, I am able to pour into my professional role serving others fully with a bigger spirit of abundance, joy and peace.
"Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up" -Brene Brown
Next time you find yourself in a situation where you can feel the need to lead by being the first, beating the competitor, or seeking achievement as a driver, I suggest you prepare in advance a personal reference that captures your desired mindset and the purpose behind your position. Invest some time in creating your own personal mantra, guideposts, or mission where you can right-set your thinking and ground your heart in who you are, not what you do as your foundation to lead.
A few minutes meditating on your personal identity can drastically change how you show up in the next interaction as a professional. And remember, the tone of the leader cascades throughout the entire organization; you may be surprised how the energy can multiply.
Reach out if you want to explore how to take the next steps in awakening your potential.