Ok, tell me if you relate: I have a hard time disassociating my creative work from my value as a person.
I know, when you put it like that, it sounds kind of clear that I’m off. After all, people who have a disability or young children or elderly people who are no longer able to create or whoever, all have intrinsic value whether or not they make something cool to give to others, but it’s a struggle I have. I love my work. It’s freaking meaningful. And after I’m long gone, it’s what remains of me, right? So here’s something I’m currently wrestling with:
My work may be my legacy, but my work is not the ultimate gauge of my value.
This is a truth that is hard for a lot of people to reconcile, I think. We are incredibly passionate about our work, so how can we separate our value from it?
You are so much more than who you are as an artist, innovator or entrepreneur. You are someone’s child, someone’s sibling, someone’s significant other, but aside from all that, you are someone. If you spend all your time and energy focusing on the output in your life, your self-worth will be rocked consistently. Just ask any teen heartthrob a decade after his peak in popularity. Accolades, inspiration, and output can and will wane. It’s important to deconstruct where we find our own value and implement a healthy perspective.
So what are some practical ways we can work to separate our identities from our output?
1. Pray for others. Pray for your family. Pray for your significant other. Pray for your friends, neighbors, co-workers and leaders. Consciously articulate the needs, desires, and goals of others. It is so easy to get engrossed in our own work and become self-focused. Praying for people is a conscious exercise to focus on the needs of others.
2. Read non-industry related content. I’m a non-fiction junkie and I’m constantly reading in order to learn new strategies to grow my business and improve my work. But reading content that has nothing to do with making my work next level is a good thing. I need to consciously spend time taking a break from all of that. So grab Better Homes & Gardens or Anna Kendrick’s new biography, anything to free your mind from the usual suspects.
3. Journal. Feel anxiety? Flesh out exactly what it is you are worried about. Maybe you need to make an action plan or a to do list or maybe you just need to flesh out what you are worried about. Quite often when you articulate your worries and put them on paper (or on iPhone notes app), you are able to get them off your mind and they do not loom so large.
4. Express gratitude. Thank God for the provisions He has made in your life. He’s blessed you with a calling that lights you up, with work that you love, and with, no doubt, lots of other things you're grateful for. Gratitude is a critical part of finding your value outside of how you perform.
5. Spend time with people who value you apart from your creative work. Maybe they are friends that knew you before you ever had any noteworthy accomplishments. Maybe it’s your family. Maybe it's friends from a service organization. Keep your life full of people who do not only know you and value you for your work. That balance will bring refreshment.
I’ll be honest with you here. Separating my identity from my output has been one of my biggest struggles. Legacy is important to me. Excellence is important to me. What I do is important to me. But it’s also important to remember that my value does not solely lie in what I create. Sometimes it’s a hard truth to accept, but when we do accept it, we’re free to risk, to fail, and to rest.