Tuesday, February 19, 2008

They're all choices

"I was part of that strange race of people aptly described as spending their lives doing things they detest to make money they don't want to buy things they don't need to impress people they dislike." ~ Emile Henry Gavreau

It's review time at the office in many companies. The sales have been tallied for the fiscal year, the plans for the coming year have been set. Now the moment of truth - did all your hard work pay off? And what is it you'd like to do in the coming year? My boss and I began to informally talk about my review. I've been at my job for just over 7 months, just enough "to be dangerous" as my boss likes to say. 

The beginning of our discussion about my review led us to a deeper conversation about the choices that the review process necessitates - not in terms of bonuses or promotions, but in terms of the choices individuals need to make about their lives going forward. Too often people see their hands as tied by an employer. "My job requires me to work X number of (very long) hours." "I have to do X or Y even if I don't agree with it because my boss says I have to." My boss and I came to the conclusion that in fact no one has to do anything. Sure, there will be consequences for any action, good or bad, but ultimately the choice of what to do with one's career and in one's job is that person's decision. You are the only one who has to live with you. As my favorite Native American poem asks, "in the empty moments, do you like the company you keep?"

Too often we do things to keep up, show off, puff out our chests, and strut around with a badge of honor for some great sacrifice we've made on our employer's behalf. And sadly, too often that sacrifice is our health or our loved ones or worst of all, our happiness. The truth of the matter is that whether or not we work for that employer, we have to be genuinely proud of who we are and the choices we make at every moment. Companies fall away, people move on, the ink on contracts fades. And no matter who signs my paycheck, the only person I see in the mirror every morning is me. Defining ourselves on our own terms, on our own turf, is the most important work we will ever do because who we choose to become travels with us wherever we go.

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