First a bit of good news: Wander Woman took the Gold Medal in the 2011 Axiom Business Books Awards in the Women in Business category! I promise to try not to define myself by this success…
Women are increasingly identifying themselves by the work they do.
Not only has work moved into the forefront of our lives, our passion to make a difference has more outlets as more women find their way down increasingly diverse professional paths. As I explain in Wander Woman, women are motivated more by “motion and meaning” than titles and money once their survival needs are met. Then for high-achievers, add the years and dollars we invest in getting degrees and building our careers and it’s easy to see how we lose our identity to our work.
A downside to confusing your work with who you think you are is taking mistakes and failure too personally. An error, even if it leads to a failed attempt to achieve something you desired for years, is an event. It is not who you are.
However, how you respond to a mistake or failure defines who you are—if you jump back up or stay down after the fall.
A number of my friends have had difficulties getting jobs or maintaining their businesses during the recession. I too faced a low point last summer. When this happens, it is hard not to feel the pain of failure. The only way out of this dark hole is to keep focusing on the experience as a loss and setback without thinking of yourself as a failure (I know, it’s easier said than done).
Some other useful tips to keep your work results from defining who you are include:
- Keep your ultimate goals in mind. What change do you want to want to make? What impact do you want to have? How do you want people to think or act differently as a result of your work? When you are clear on this, then you can find another way to reach your goals after something you tried failed or gave you results far less than you had hoped for.
- Get back on the horse as soon as possible. You may need time to grieve the loss of a dream you had, but taking steps in your new direction as soon as possible will keep you from feeling helpless.
- Get out of your head and go help someone else. Focusing your energy on helping someone else who has fallen into a deeper hole than yours will give you the gifts of perspective, gratitude, and compassion.
- List the successful actions you have taken this year. Identify the traits you possess that helped you to create these successes. These traits (emotions, values, positive habits, perspective, and attitude) are a major part of who you, not the tasks you achieved. No one can take these traits away from you no matter what happens to your job or pet project. Read this post I wrote for Huffington to help you identify your unique contributions.
- Look for the lesson in the setback. What did you learn that you never want to repeat? The setback is truly a failure if you don’t acknowledge lessons learned. All wise people have long lists of lessons learned from their mistakes.
I wish you many successes soon after you bounce back from your lessons. Please celebrate the person you are who has the heart to keep on going.