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Your Job Doesn’t Define You

By Robin Miner-Swartz, Guest Blogger

I got a really great compliment today. Maybe one of the better ones I’ve ever gotten.

“Robin, you probably have the best work-life balance of anyone I know.”

I actually teared up.

“You should have known me 10 years ago,” was my chuckling reply – after the “thank you,” of course.

This month, I’ve been caught up in “milestone” thinking. My partner, Betsy, and I have been together for 10 years now. I remember saying to her a little more than a year into our relationship, “I can’t wait until we have a history together.” We have that now. And it’s long enough that I genuinely feel everything prior to her was a lifetime ago.

So, so, so much has changed in the past 10 years. Some of it has been happily life-changing (new relationship, new career). Some of it has been sadly life-changing (the loss of my partner’s parents in a three-year span). All of it has added up to some much-needed perspective.

The compliment came during a leadership training session at work. We were talking about tests that challenge us – things such as:

  • The Stewardship Test: How wisely do we handle the resources we’ve been given?
  • The Wilderness Test: When our emotional and mental reserves are depleted, how do we tap into a new source of energy and ability?
  • The Mastery Test: Who or what has the ultimate authority in our lives?

One “test” that was missing from the list, we decided, was the Satisfaction Test: How and when are you ever satisfied? How can you tell? It’s a hard question for people to answer – particularly in relation to their careers, it turns out. But as we talked, it didn’t even occur to me to apply that question to my work.

Through making a big change in careers almost four years ago, I learned that I am more important than my job. This might not be a revelation to you; it was for me. And once I became more important to me than my career, everything else made sense. I understood how to protect my time while still doing everything (and more) I needed to be successful. I understood what it meant to participate in my community. I learned – quite happily – that work-life balance is a very real thing. And it’s wonderful.

During that same leadership session, the conversation turned to dreams vs. wishes. If there is something you very much want to achieve, and you work hard to make it happen, it’s a dream. Without any work, it’s just a wish. Our group leader asked us to think about dreams we might have for ourselves professionally.

I realized my dreams are personal. They’re about my life, not about my job. Please don’t misunderstand me – I love my job. I love the work I get to do, the cause I work for and the community I serve. I truly do.

But I love my life the most. Work is a big part of my life, but it doesn’t define me. I define me. And once I figured that out, the whole work-life balance thing came quite easily.

I wish the same for you.

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Robin is a #lovelansing cheerleader who is passionate about helping people connect with others who can help them succeed in work and in life. She’s a bleeding-green Spartan, a Biggby coffee loyalist, a wine enthusiast and a bit of a geek. She’s also the vice president of communications for the Capital Region Community Foundation, a mid-Michigan nonprofit dedicated to making the tri-county area a better place for everyone to live and work. Follow her on Twitter at @RobinMSwartz.

This post was originally posted via our friend Chris Sell at: http://wednesdaywakeup.com/2013/10/18/job-doesnt-define/ You should check out his blog for other great posts!

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Michigan State University.

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