So, What do you do?


Raise your hand if you wonder the best way to respond when asked “What do you do?” as a conversation ice-breaker in a social gathering. However, it is interesting that people define themselves in so many ways, by so much different criteria. I believe that ultimately self-defining in many instances is derived by what is most socially accepted. When it comes to a job if it is not considered a good or upstanding job role then one might defer from using it to define him or herself. But if it is a job with a bit of prestige associated with it the job holder would be more inclined to define him or herself by that role. Acceptance is a huge factor in our current society. People believe that image is everything without even saying it. We want to be a part of something, a need to belong and when we don’t fit in with the “group”, we are often viewed as odd. This is felt acutely by women who were previously high flyers but have opted out to look after children. No one pays such ladies any attention the minute they hear “taking time out”.

Anyways, so what do we actually do?? As humans, we are always looking for something BETTER to do. We want to reach heights in whatever we are doing to maximize our labor value. Job no longer means only to feed ourself and our family. I represents this identity as a human being. I believe that job shows how much dedicated and hard-working person we are. However, a job can’t describe us as a human being for sure. For some people, job is a mean to pay off their bills which can be understood as these people have family and kids to look after which is a great job in itself.

It is true that simply striving for ‘better’ can be an unachievable goal, purely because the mountain to climb is never-ending! Hence, it is not only important to set realistic targets, but also to be happy with the small things in life, which can often be overlooked in today’s fast-paced world. We are all in the pursuit of our own happiness, in some cases people express this in a material manner, often only too late realizing that life is about you “have” and not about what you “own”.

It’s the Puritan ethic: success shows salvation. Unfortunately, in becoming “better” human beings, we tend to deteriorate into human “doings.” I like being busy. I also cherish my time to myself: reading, blogging, etc. I don’t talk about challenges because that sounds like guidance counselors and other inspirational types I don’t trust. I just -do-. Maybe I mention it, maybe I don’t, thereafter. Somehow, it’s hard to adapt our psyches to reversion to the mean. But you know? When we are unhappy about work or lack thereof, at least it’s a known thing and an acceptable reason.

Everything in life is a compromise, we have got to find balance, equilibrium and motivation that works for us! I agree with the philosophy of doing whatever works to create the ideal work and life balance I desire. I describe my balanced life philosophy as “always happy, never satisfied”. Being satisfied and being complacent are two very different things that shouldn’t be confused… 😉

It’s nice to see that people in positions of power are beginning to realize that a company’s bottom line is not only dependent upon productivity but also state of mind. Enlightened employers are trying to make it their business to understand their employees aspirations and can harness this positive energy in a good way for the benefit of all. A job or job title will only define you if you allow it too. As long as the work is interesting, challenging and supports our chosen lifestyle who cares which seat we occupy. A widely cited bon mot attributed to Aristotle reads “We are what we repeatedly do; Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” For me, it is very easy to have my job becoming part of identity and Oh! striking this balance between pursuit of happiness and satiable ambitions is so difficult.

Our job is simply one facet of us. It’s important also to develop a “personal hinterland” beyond our job/career – friends, family, hobbies, etc. that also help define us as a untitledperson. Whilst jobs can certainly lift us and improve our feelings of self-worth, allowing them to define us completely and leaves us potentially vulnerable in a psychological sense. In times of difficulty at work, we can often draw strength from our hinterland. There is often a big gap between realistic expectations and dreams and this is where we can fall in the abyss of depression.

While it is true that a slight amount of dissatisfaction with the status quo is necessary to get ahead, we often mistake change for getting ahead. Is an increase in wages, a change in title or change in your role getting ahead or is getting ahead about staying relevant, heading towards mastery in what you do and having a sense of purpose? In the social space, is it about eating at better restaurants and having “better” friends or is it about having a sense of well-being with a home cooked meal and close friends?

There are perks and drawbacks of being ambitious. Just one question; unsatisfied = ambitious? unsatisfied = unhappy? I´m not sure. Ambitious workers but happy persons; difficult formula but probably the good one to make the world turn. Perhaps the emphasis on achieving the goal is the issue, rather than the quest?

In the words of the immortal Sachmo, when asked “What is jazz?”: If you have to ask, you’ll never know.

Categories: Muddled Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “So, What do you do?

  1. southernhon

    I never, ever ask that question. Honestly, I don’t care what people do that rewards them with a paycheck. Tell me something that matters – about your family, hobbies, pets, etc.

  2. Pingback: Year 2013, in my rear-view mirror… | MissUnderstood Genius

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