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Becoming is Better than Being

Why everything changes when you see your work as a work in progress.

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My parents took me to Ephesus as a kid, and although I didn’t appreciate it as much as I do now — I recall that it was old. Epic. Awesome. And it was still there, after all these years.

Heraclitus, one of the first philosophers ever known lived here in the sixth century BC. He said that nothing in this world is constant except change. And what is becoming but the possibility of change.

Fittingly Heraclitus earned the nickname ‘The Obscure.’ He became famous for his views on a world in flux, where everything flows and is always transforming.

But when it comes to our jobs or our careers — this doesn’t apply, right? We’re supposed to know what we want to be when we grow up and do that thing forever right? Wrong.

Nearly half of the professionals working plan on quitting their jobs this year.

Recent times have revealed that not only is the nature of work changing and us along with it — but the pace at which change happens is only accelerating.

As spring rolls in the question many are asking themselves is: who do I want to be now? The past while has seen us stretch ourselves, try on different outfits, slip into new shoes.

When we start to see and feel work as a source of energy — things really start to shift. That obscureness that Heraclitus was so well known for becomes less daunting and something that we might even embrace. Those new shoes start getting broken in.

Funny thing — when I was younger I dreaded the question, “So what do you do?” I always felt that my answer would never be good enough. I was insecure.

Over time I started to embrace the conversation. I was in these moments where I got to try on my working identity. Often I would even kick-off the conversation — instead of asking someone what they did, I’d ask them ‘What are you working on?’

And what I found is that people lit up. Sometimes they spoke about their paid work, sometimes about their side hustles or their projects, or often they would share whatever it is they are looking to do — something that they wanted to become rather than what it is they do now. It was a generous question that opened up possibilities.

When our identity is in transition it can be a really uncomfortable place. It’s like we want the world to adopt new lenses to see the new and improved version of us that’s stepping forward. We want it to be clear from both ends, but the reality is — everything’s kinda blurry.

The trick it would seem is to care less — or not at all — about what others think and tap into that inner leader within you. To accept yourself as you are.

Indeed — balancing self-acceptance with your ambition is the tricky part — and finding the right equilibrium is what’s required of becoming.

It’s when we are curious and courageous enough to move beyond our self-perceived limits, that we find more possibilities open up to us. We affect those around us through our creativity and resilience. As we renew ourselves and what we value in work, it provides the opportunity to repair the estrangement we have with our ‘unemployed selves’.

Understanding what we truly want to become starts with a more digestible question — of the multitudes of selves which I have in me, which do I explore now? We then retrieve those parts of ourselves, and the values they bring, that are in jeopardy of being lost. These are the very idiosyncrasies that make you, you. More of your passions, capacities, and skills — can be unleashed.

In essence, you take your future selves for a test-drive. You test out new working identities and as a result, we avoid getting stuck in a default future.

It doesn’t really matter when you start so long as you do. We often don’t give up on a career or a way of working until we have a good sense of the alternatives. And to make room for the new we must shed some of our old selves, these are the ones that we’re still dragging about and often subconsciously still invested in becoming.

When we hold a fixed mindset and a working identity that’s static — we sell ourselves short. We fail to give life to those parts of ourselves that are eager to stretch their legs. It’s only when we acknowledge and remove our limiting beliefs that we are able to choose a new story — to switch up the characters we play.

We may not have control over external events, but we can control our responses to them. The search for meaning in life or work (which are really now one and the same) is about how you see yourself and how you move through this world.

That sense of belonging can arise when we are deliberate in finding our work tribe.

That sense of fulfillment can emerge when we start to believe and validate that we are making a difference.

That sense of joy can come when we see work more expansively — as practice.

As the seasons change, we might further embrace those inherent qualities that live within us, flex the ones that we want to see more of, and become stewards of our unique gifts.

As it turns out, it’s this endless growth, that’s more desirable than a permanent state. A popular saying in the ’60s expressed just this: becoming is better than being.

Like it or not — we’re reimagining our working identities — all the time. As works in progress, these new selves may feel foreign, sometimes scary, and at other times exhilarating. The point really is to begin — so that you act yourself into a new way of thinking rather than think yourself into a new way of acting.

When we reshape our work, change careers, and alter our identities — it may feel like we’re abandoning so much of what we’ve invested in. And while this may be true — we’re actually building upon these past selves and welcoming those parts of ourselves we feel compelled to give life to. We shift from trying to be something and instead strive to continuously learn and grow.

Whatever change you might be going through, and however gnarly it may be, it will most likely happen through small steps. Intuitively — your body probably is telling what feels right— what is right.

Regeneration does not happen in isolation. And perhaps that is the most wonderful thing about reveling in the journey that has become our new world of work. The twist and turns, the lightness and heaviness, the crossroads and junctions — all serve a purpose. They nudge you to where you need to be.

Sit with this. Bask in it. Because our time is now.

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