The Irreverent Professor

Unvarnished realities about life, teaching, learning, and change in this wild, wild world

Archive for the tag “work”

Doing What You Know versus Being Who You Are

Aha.

I had an aha moment and I want to share it with you.

My brother used to call me a “human doing” because, as a (sort of) recovering Type A personality person, I was always busy.  Going, doing, keeping busy.  My theme song might have been this quite wonderful song BusyBusyBusy by Kevin Kline (yes, the actor) on Philadelphia Chickens, one of Sandra Boynton‘s albums for children.  [You may not have know that the wonderful author Sandra Boynton had albums.  They are fabulous!  I…I mean, my son…loves them!]  

This is seriously one of my favorite albums. Where else can you hear some of your favorite artists sing silly songs?  Awesome is what it is.

This is seriously one of my favorite albums. Where else can you hear some of your favorite artists sing silly songs? Awesome is what it is.  http://www.sandraboynton.com/sboynton/boyntonmusic.html

Anyhoo, what I am coming to realize as I get old and sparkly (my hair is sparkly, not grey!) is that I stay busy doing what I know, but that doesn’t always coincide with who I am.  And if I am not being who I am, then I’m not really living the most fulfilling life I can.

A long time ago, I remember reading an article (in the pre-blog, tweet, post days) that talked about how compelling it is to ask people to answer a simple question and that their answer to this question reveals a lot about them.  So I’m going to ask you this question and–without thinking about it long and hard–tell me what the first answer is that pops into your head.  Or don’t.  No pressure.  Ready for the question?  Ok, here it is.  Remember, don’t think.  Just react…

Who are you?

What was your knee-jerk, gut reaction answer to that question?  It might have been something like:

– I’m a woman

– I’m a dad

– I’m a Christian

– I’m a free spirit

– I’m an accountant

Now think harder about the question.  Did you really answer “who you are?”  Or did you answer the questions “what you know?” or “what you do?”

Whatever your answer was or is (and you are welcome to change your answer now–I’m not the thought police), think about how you spend your time.  Are you spending your time doing things that make the most of who you are?  Or are you spending time doing what you know?

As an example, I know about crisis preparedness and legal issues for the meetings, hospitality, and tourism industry.  I spend a lot of time on those topics–researching, writing, editing, teaching, social media-ing (it’s my blog, I can make that a verb).

A picture of a more "real" me than I suspect some of my colleagues might imagine.  I was glad this day when my suitcase failed to show up at the resort with me as it gave me an excuse to wander around in a gift shop t-shirt and swim trunks.

A picture of a more “real” me than I suspect some of my colleagues might imagine. I was glad this day when my suitcase failed to show up at the resort with me as it gave me an excuse to wander around in a gift shop t-shirt and swim trunks.

But that’s not who I am.  I am: a writer, a mother, a wife, a stifled creative, an educator, a speaker, an anti-authoritarian…and a few things that maybe I won’t publish here lest we get off track.

My aha moment came when I realized that when I’m just doing what I know, I am less happy than when I am being who I am.  Which in turn reminded me of this wonderful quote:

“If I am not for myself who is for me? And being for my own self, what am ‘I’?  And if not now, when?”Hillel the Elder

If not now, when indeed?

Carpe now!

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Getting Unstuck: Taking Action

I had two conversations with friends yesterday that have me thinking.  Both said that there had come a point (or several) in their lives in which they got “stuck” in some way and had a hard time getting unstuck.  It’s a relief to know I’m not alone in this.  What I’ve come to realize is that being stuck takes many different forms:

  • Stuck in a career – you don’t like the career you’ve chosen or you’re bored with what you’ve done for the last x years.
  • Stuck in a job – you love where you work but you’re feeling unfulfilled or you like what you do but not where you do it.
  • Stuck in a relationship – you’re in a bad relationship or you’re in a good relationship but you’ve gotten bored, lost each other, gotten stale.
  • Stuck in creative endeavors – writer’s block, wanting to get back into something creative you did before marriage, before kids, in college.
  • Stuck in education – I’ve advised many students who have changed majors umpteen times, gone to school with PhD students got stuck at ABD (all but dissertation), and talked to many who want to go back to school but “can’t” because _____ (fill in the blank here – too old, can’t afford it, too busy, etc.)

And these are just a few.

I’ve been thinking about how stuck I am for, oh, going on a good year now.  So who am I to talk about getting unstuck?  But one of the ways I was stuck was geographically.  I liked where I was living, but there’s only ever been one place that has had my heart.  A place I knew I was meant to be.  And in May 2014, we moved back to this place.  Finally.  After 25 years of living elsewhere.  Finally, we’re back.  Finally, we can afford to be back.  Finally, we accumulated the right combination of education, experience, and risk acceptance to move back to our little town and make a home here.  Sure we had to downsize and change our lifestyle in certain ways.  But sacrifice is also part of getting unstuck. (Hey, I think I just discovered my next blog post topic.  Yay me!).

My hometown, St. Simons Island, Georgia.  No better place on earth - for me.

My hometown, St. Simons Island, Georgia. No better place on earth – for me.

One of my biggest challenges (which I’m sure is shared by others) is paralysis of analysis.  I’ll think about and talk about being stuck.  I’ll lament and complain and get depressed about being stuck. I’ll whine and bitch and moan (and then wonder why suddenly none of my friends are available for lunch dates). But none of that does a damn thing to help me get unstuck.  The only way to get unstuck is to Take Action.  So we took action on the geographic stuckness.  Big Action.

But all action to get unstuck doesn’t have to be Big.  It can be small action.  It’s a lot less daunting to consider small action, taking one tiny baby step in the direction of getting unstuck.

I highly recommend this career book, which is tied to the Myers Briggs Personality Type Inventory.  It's one of my favorites.

I highly recommend this career book, which is tied to the Myers Briggs Personality Type Inventory. It’s one of my favorites.

In the past when I’ve felt stuck in a career (which has happened to me a lot!  I get bored easilly), I haven’t (always) just up and quit a job and gone back to college. I’ve started by having a cup of coffee with someone who was in the career I thought I wanted to be in.  Sometimes it validated my interest, sometimes it made me realize that wasn’t the career for me.  I ❤ career counselors and have talked to a few at colleges and who have private practices.  I’m also a sucker for personality inventories and trying to tie personality traits to careers that appeal.

I haven’t personally gotten stuck in education (hence, the four degrees on my wall), but have advised traditional and non-traditional would-be students alize to consider taking a degree or non-degree class or even a workshop in the field they are interested in at a community college to see if they really like it. Online courses make this pretty easy.  When I have wanted to go back to school, I start collecting degree requirements from different schools and programs to see which one “feels” right.  And you are Never. Too. Old.  My oldest student – in an online master’s program, no less – turned 70 just before she graduated.  So take that!

Of the friends I talked to yesterday, one stuck in his career took a job in a field he had previously only volunteered in.  While he’s not sure it’s the “right” place to be for the long haul, he took action and is (a) at least drawing a paycheck and (b) feeling like he’s contributing to society again.  He took action.  The other one, also stuck in her career, quit her job and took a low-stress (and low-pay) job.  Ultimately she realized that it wasn’t worth it to her and she went back to her old employer but in a new position.  Her action led to important information and an improvement in her situation.

Everyone’s different, but we all get stuck at times. When I was single (and wanting to be not-single), I used to say, “The right guy isn’t going to come walking through my living room” (although he did come through the T1 line to my computer–G*d bless online dating for geeks like us).  Likewise, the solution to stuckness isn’t going to come walking through the living room.  We have to go find it.  By taking action.

Carpe baby steps!

8 Hours a Day, 9-5? I Think Not.

My office at 9am.  Lonely, empty, and waiting for me to wake up.

My office at 9am. Lonely, empty, and waiting for me to get in the right frame of mind. [Note @gapingvoid framed print in corner. Love him…er, it. Check him out on web or Twitter.]

I’m not a morning person.  Ok, that’s an understatement.  I hate mornings.  And I hate the word “hate.”  But it fits here.  I’ve spent 25+ years working for businesses for which the work day “start” time is 8am or 9am and leaving before 5pm is frowned upon.

But here’s the thing…I do crappy work (if any work at all) at 9am.  At 8am, I am a mere shell of a woman, a robot going through the motions.  I can’t form complete sentences.  In fact, when I was a meeting planner (many moons ago), I used to be told regularly on the phone in the mornings to speak up because people “couldn’t hear me.”  At the time, I thought that was due to a hardware problem, but I’ve since realized that a barely audible mumble is the best I can do in the morning.

Recently my husband, The Genius, said casually to me, “Why do you even sit down at your desk before lunch time?” Um, because I’m supposed to.  Hello?  Social norms and all that.  That’s when it hit me (because it was late afternoon)–I don’t care about social norms!  And the older I get, the less I care about them.  Why DO I sit down at my desk at 9am?  It’s been well-established (and is a frequent subject of discussion between my husband and I) that my “prime time” for work is 2:00-6:00pm.  It’s a subject of discussion because my husband’s “prime time” is 8am-12pm guy.  He’d start work at 7am (shudder) if we could get the Mole Boy ready for preschool in time.  But I’m not much help with that in the morning.

His comment stemmed from reading this blog post “The Origin of the 8 Hour Work Day and Why We Should Rethink it.”  Brilliant.

So I’m experimenting with not bothering to sit down at my desk before 10am…and 11am might be more like it.  And stopping work at 6pm or so.  2:00-6:00pm is my “prime time.”   The time I get into my groove, focus, and can be productive without effort. What’s yours?

And do you do work (or have a j-o-b) that accommodates your prime time?  If not, maybe you need to make a change (or become an entrepreneur).  Life’s too short to watch a clock.

Carpe Prime Time!

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