Success… is that all there is?

“It’s like having your entire investment in one stock and the stock is your job. You are going to be extremely anxious about losing that job, and depressed if you do.” says Robert Leahy, Director of the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy in New York as quoted in the Wall Street Journal article You Might as Well Face It: You’re Addicted to Success on Feb. 12, 2009.

These days there is an awful lot of fear in the air. ‘How secure is my job?’ “Forty years of work down the tubes.” “What if I lose my job; will I be able to find another one?” “How will my kids ever able to finish college?” “Will my house ever sell and just how much am I going to lose when it does?” These may be significant contributors to what has been referred to as “recession-related anxiety”. We hear these types of concerns in our conversations with colleagues, clients, friends, neighbors and family, and perhaps even from our own lips. It is enough to make anyone’s heart start to race, thoughts to spin, breaths to become shallow and rapid, and palms clammy.

Clear your mind and count for four breaths, inhaling slowly, deeply and exhaling slowly and completely. If a thought enters your mind, let it go. Return to counting and breathing.

Now let’s add an other contributor to “recession-related anxiety”, something that has become a “virtue” in today’s world, Success Addiction, or as Kevin Helliker wrote so perfectly “ the unmitigated identification of self with occupation, accomplishment and professional status.” I am an insert your profession of choice therefore I am. But in doing so, I believe we deny all else that we are or could be. I am a Social Worker; I am a Coach. That’s it? Really? That’s not enough for me. I want to be greedy with my life and diversify it as fully as my retirement investments (Thanks Mom and Dad for seeds you planted early about diversification in life and money). So yes, I am a Social Worker, I am a Coach, AND I am also a Wife, a Sister, a Daughter, a Friend, a Dancer, a Cook, a Traveler, a Reader and a Gardener.

Like with the stock market or any type of investment, if you put all your resources in once place, the payoffs may be big, but if the floor falls out, there’s nothing else to help absorb the blow.  All one’s worth is gone as well. We may not have enough power as an individual to change the flow of our investment portfolios or prevent being laid-off, but we can most certainly exert our individual power and resources to address over identifying with our work.  We can step out and diversify our lives, creating a bit more balance.

One of the first things people always say when you are looking for a job is to network; something that is not easily done by all people. Well, the same basic principle applies in working to create a bit more balance; you gotta reach out, probably reaching outside of your comfort zone, and network. Usually that means, getting clear about what virtues and characteristics are most sacred to you, broadening your circle of friends- not as easily done as when we were in school and for some of us it was not easy then- and investing more in your family.

Clear your mind and count for four breaths, inhaling slowly, deeply and exhaling slowly and completely. If a thought enters your mind, let it go. Return to counting and breathing.

Now what is that you have been craving to do for years? Join a writers group? Learn to knit? Take your kids to fly a kite?  Learn to fry a turkey as well as Uncle Lou? Take up fencing? Learn to leave the office by 5 pm?

This time clear your mind and count for four breaths, inhaling slowly, deeply and exhaling slowly and completely. If a thought enters your mind, let it go. Return to counting and breathing. Now what comes to mind when you think about what really matters?

Got it? Good now go do something, big or small, about it. I know you can. I am going to write some overdue letters to loved ones.

 

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