Revelations, not resolutions

Thursday, January 4, 2018 Permalink

I gave up on the idea of New Year’s resolutions years ago. Even my thinly-veiled versions, labelled as ‘goals’ didn’t help me when it came to following through on dreams or ideas. I am however, partial to the idea of continuous improvement – that management catch-cry of the 1990s, which I’m sure has since been forgotten… along with Milli Vanilli and the like.

It’s not uncommon then that my navel-gazing leads to the odd revelation or two, and I’ve been I’ve been pondering a couple, particularly in light of the new year and that concept of new beginnings. And stuff.

1. Being defined by what I do instead of who I am

This is not new. In fact I talked about this back in 2012 here and 2013 here when I took a redundancy from full-time work. Although I’d always dreamed of having a break from the workforce I’d essentially worked since I was in my early 20s and finished Uni. With no family, partner and so forth… work seriously defined me. Who was I if I wasn’t a: public servant / project manager and so forth.

And though I like to pretend I’ve evolved from that mindset, I’m realising it’s not the case.

The advent of a new year has me considering my writing goals. I keep saying I want to write…. something – finish one of the novels I’ve started, perhaps. But it would pretty much involve cutting back on my blogging and (more importantly) my book reviewing. It’s not rocket science…. I just need to request fewer books from publishers.

But… (just between us) I’m now wondering, Who am I if I’m not a book blogger / reviewer? It hardly garnishes me with fame or fortune, but I’ve allowed it to define who I am. It’s like my ‘claim to fame’. Without the fame part.

revelations and identity

From Byron Katie’s FB page

2. Being without ambition

I’ve never been astoundingly ambitious. I mean sure, when I was young I dreamed of fame and fortune (hmmm…. there seems to be a theme) but that disappeared along with the concept of ‘true love’ and the like.

Mostly I’ve focussed on feeling challenged in my workplace (leading to A LOT of different project management gigs throughout the early 2000s in government), or feeling vaguely valued.

I really only ended up climbing the public service ladder because I realised I was getting passed by people I’d promoted and wondered if I SHOULD be more ambitious in terms of ‘levels’ and money.

Then came the redundancy. “I’m done,” I said, vowing to not work full-time again and find part-time work to support me as I focussed on writing and enjoying life. Of course, it took me ages to find a part-time job that paid enough to support me and after a year or so I was bored and the job itself felt very thankless. So I applied for a full-time job that came along. (And then naturally upgraded my mortgage accordingly, locking me into the rat-race again – just as I thought I’d escaped it!)

So… I’ve started wondering if I’m doomed. If I’ll always want ‘more’. Though I say I want balance and freedom,  I’ll want to take that next step. It (the challenge of the job, the money) won’t be enough. (And the ENOUGH-ness thing is a whole separate post!)

However…. after a visit from a friend over the Christmas / New Year period I’ve been pondering this again. She’s just a couple of years younger than me. She has a young child though so perhaps needs to think more about the future than I do. But she was talking about some more study she was going to do and her career path in a longish term way.

I’m happy for her. She’s smart and impressive and I hope she achieves great things. But…. what occurred to me was that I felt like I’d peaked. That I was ‘done’. Not that my working life is over as such, but that I really wasn’t looking to climb the corporate ladder. There are probably a few jobs regionally I could aspire to. But I realised I don’t. I’m actually enjoying what I do now and trying not to fall down that rabbit hole in which I let work become my life.

I realise I’m kinda happy with where I’ve been career-wise. It’s not been stellar, but it’s been okay. It’s been varied. It’s been good and bad. Challenging and bloody horrible at times.

Perhaps these are the just-turned-50 hormones talking. I realise I could / should have another 15 years of work ahead of me and I could still aspire to ‘more’ (career-wise). But I don’t want that.

I want a life.

I know I’ve talked about the work / life balance thing and having time for my writing, but this recent conversation was the first time I’ve really verbalised my lack of ambition (going forward). And it came as a surprise. (Just when I thought I knew myself SO well!)

Any resolution or revelations? Can you relate to the lack of ambition thing, or perhaps I’m just being slack / cruising into later life earlier than I should be? 

The Lovin’ Life team includes:

32 Comments
  • Jo
    January 4, 2018

    I’m with you on the balance thing. I’m still ambitious – but nor for any corporate related gig. These days it’s about achieving my goals and being personally successful – not successful at a job I do. I’m setting goals this year based on that. Oh, and I really do have to do something about the weight thing before it makes me really sick – I don’t have time for that!

    • Debbish
      January 7, 2018

      I think that’s my stumbling block Jo… although I let myself be defined by my blogging in some way (ie. the first point) I’m still struggling re direction on the writing front. Perhaps that’s why work still plays more of a role in my life than it should (given the second point – that I don’t want it to!).

  • kathymarris
    January 4, 2018

    I don’t like to put too much pressure on myself because it feels like I’m setting myself up for failure. Instead I like to set small goals and implement a bit of a rough plan for the year. I’m totally with you on the ambition thing. I’m much older than you and I feel that I’ve achieved most of what I want career-wise, but ask me about travel and learning and I can go on for hours. I want to travel so much more and I also want to learn a few things too, like improving my photography and technology skills. Happy New Year!

    • Debbish
      January 7, 2018

      It’s funny, cos when I left government to take the redundancy I was a higher level than I am at the moment and yet I really felt I had little to be ‘proud’ of in my working life. I’d done a myriad of things and had a lot of interesting jobs but I didn’t really feel as if I’d peaked in a career sense.

      Sometime in the past 5 years I’ve recognised that I don’t want to achieve in that old world now… my goals are different. (I just don’t know how to pursue them!)

  • Jo@JoSimplyWill
    January 4, 2018

    I totally relate to the lack of ambition thing Deb! I once read somewhere ‘noone on their death bed ever wishes they had spent more time at work’. It seems to be the expectation of others that we strive for successively higher and higher positions, chase big dollars, getting higher degrees etc. And for what I wonder? To trap ourselves in the ‘work-earn-spend-repeat’ cycle? I’ve moved up, down, sideways, up and down again in my professional life. I won’t allow others’ definition of ‘success’ to define me, and I take opportunities to do work that is interesting and satisfying, irrespective of the ‘level’ or how much that work pays. We ‘cut our cloth…’ etc. I would love to bring out the rebel in everyone, and have them marching to their own drum rather than following along with societal expectations. Wishing you a stimulating and interesting year in your work and every aspect of your life Deb! And remember, YOU are enough! xxx

    • Debbish
      January 7, 2018

      Thanks Jo and yes… I’ve allowed success in my work life to be defined by others. But, in reality it’s been more about my perception of others’ judgement. I’ve been doing some tidying this weekend and found a heap of old cards from my folks (mostly my mum) and they talk about how proud they are of me. I know they certainly haven’t expected more of me than I’ve done – though I suspect they wish(ed) I’d been happier in general.

  • writeofthemiddle
    January 4, 2018

    I totally ‘get’ what you’re saying Deb. I’m a bit older than you *sigh* at 53 and I no longer have that corporate ambition either. I still want to achieve. I stlll want to feel satisfaction from my achievements. I still want to be creative and learn. I just don’t want a bar of any corporate ladder. I want a better, more balanced life and I want to look after my own well being. I don’t do new years resolutions. Don’t do a guiding word for the year either … but I do still give the year some thought and list out some gentle intentions for the year. The key for me is to keep the pressure off. Where there is pressure I tend to freeze and not achieve. Hope you have a fabulous 2018! 🙂 #TeamLovinLife

    • Debbish
      January 7, 2018

      I’m struggling with that one I think Min. I want to achieve in my non-corporate life (in writing etc I guess) but I’m not sure what that means for me and how to go about doing it. Or rather, it’s perhaps how I motivate myself to pursue it. (And then I wonder if I really want it if I’m not prepared to commit to it!)

  • Margaret Richters
    January 4, 2018

    At a whole 5 years older than you and having giving up my full time job last year i totally understand and am enjoying the freedom my new part time jobs give me.

    • Debbish
      January 7, 2018

      Ah yes, I think it’s about finding purpose in other stuff we do. I guess blogging did that for me when I wasn’t working (hence being able to call myself a ‘blogger’ during that time).

  • Charlie @ Girl of 1000 Wonders
    January 4, 2018

    Your first point is where I’ve been at the last year. Defining myself outside of my role as a teacher – which I am staunchly trying to shed altogether. I definitely want a more balanced life, especially given my health issues that have cropped up. I don’t want to work in a place that is killing me. I set my reading and blogging goals, but otherwise my focus this year is ME.

    • Debbish
      January 7, 2018

      What an important focus! It’s horrible isn’t it that we feel we often have to justify prioritising ourselves?! I remember in my previous full-time working life I cut back to do a 4-day week (then 9-day fortnight) and I felt I had to explain my choice. People didn’t understand… I had no kids, I wasn’t studying so why on earth would I not work full-time. Or rather, not be more ambitious? I felt like I had to justify myself.

      Thankfully I think the balance thing is becoming more accepted and the whole notion of living simply and minimalism is helping the broader population understand some of us are questioning the priorities and mindset we’ve all adopted for so long.

  • deb dane
    January 4, 2018

    I think when ambition comes from a place of “should” it is a red flag so think your reflections show you getting to the heart of who you are and what you want. Every person needs to define that for themselves and even your “more” might just be a tiny bit more rather than a full scale push for that big league. “I want a life” is a valid approach for guiding your choices. Xx

    • Debbish
      January 7, 2018

      Ah yes Deb I keep coming back to my values in my recent ponderings. I’m familiar with exercises suggesting we document how / where we spend our time and ask ourselves if that’s consistent with our values or what it is we want to achieve. I’m pretty sure mine aren’t in line but in many ways it’s changing them that’s a stumbling block for me. That’s not to say I haven’t come some of the way and this post and much of my thinking over the past 5yrs have driven me to this point.

      Of course I’m possibly overthinking things and we never really achieve that utopian dream of ‘balance’ or the life we really want to live.

  • leannelc
    January 4, 2018

    I sometimes question my lack of ambition. I know that I’m smart, but I never had the opportunity to use that when I was younger and now the desire to push myself seems to have waned. I don’t want my life to be about a career or even about the big bucks. Just a little contentment and happiness and definitely a balance. My aim is to not let the year slide past without growing in someway (not the waistline though!) I want this year to be more pleasant than last year and for a little peace and joy to come my way. Wishing you the same x

    • Debbish
      January 7, 2018

      Ah yes, I think it’s great to be able to look back on our life (days, weeks, years) and see that we’ve grown a little. Or evolved I guess. I’m pretty confident that’s been the case for me and in reality that’s probably all I can ask. Whether some of that comes with age I’m not sure. I’m kind of in denial that I’m 50 in the sense that it ‘sounds’ oldish. It sounds as if I should be readying for retirement, or being a grandparent and I don’t feel I’m ready for that. I mean, I don’t necessarily want to have to work, but I’m definitely not ready to be a retiree – as I’ve traditionally viewed ‘retirees’. (And I guess that’s it…. it’s very much about my perceptions!) And sorry, I think I just went around in circles there and am not really sure what I am trying to say! Argh! x

  • Jodie
    January 4, 2018

    But I think we can discover ourselves and learn to be happy with what we are. Why do we have to keep climbing the ladder to be better?? The here and now can be the perfect place to be—or so I’ve decided!!
    Happy 2018!!
    OXOX
    Jodie
    http://www.jtouchofstyle.com

    • Debbish
      January 7, 2018

      Thanks Jodie. And yes, the ‘living in the now’ is something I need to work on! xx

  • Denyse Whelan Blogs
    January 4, 2018

    I read what I thought are great words here…of acceptance and letting go of what you “should be” or “should do” here and I loved this! To set ourselves up as comparisons to others is to ask for failure and no joy. I like the ways in which your navel gazing has taken you to a way of looking at how to make the most of what is now and what you have now. I LOVED the photos that you had taken and the ones of your party. YOU SHINE in them all. There is a spark in your eyes and smile that tells me you are liking life more and yourself too! So happy for you! Denyse x

    • Debbish
      January 7, 2018

      I’m definitely liking life more Denyse. I think it’s certainly a combo of feeling better about myself (weight-wise) but also feeling more fulfilled in a professional sense. I’m conscious though of the bad habits creeping in from my old way of life… I’m waking thinking about work some (most?) mornings and sometimes feel that clenched feeling in my body all day. But… I’m also feeling challenged by it and the money is most certainly appreciated.

  • Sydney Shop Girl
    January 4, 2018

    I have phases of ambition. At the moment, I’m in cruising / survival (when things seem overwhelming) mode. But I’m planning for change and new goals in the next couple of years.

    SSG xxx

    • Debbish
      January 7, 2018

      Oh good to plan ahead and that’s probably something I should do. Though in some ways I am. I keep talking here (and on Instagram) about my ‘next place’ and though I’ve no desire to move on from my gorgeous house I’m thinking of that next phase… semi-retirement I guess. Or retirement and how I can live a decent life without having to work until I’m 65 or worry too much about money / getting by with no income.

  • Natalie
    January 5, 2018

    Your statement ‘I want a life’ is perfect, Deb. I’m sure you have ideas to make life satisfying your way. Happy New Year 2018!

    • Debbish
      January 7, 2018

      I do Natalie, I just need to pursue them! (Which seems to be my biggest problem! It’s certainly not a ‘time’ thing. It’s more about motivation / headspace!)

  • Michelle
    January 5, 2018

    I love this if only because it is something with which I struggle as well. I am one of those people that never has five or ten-year professional goals. I don’t want any more certifications. There are only one or two more levels above me, and I never wanted to go much higher up the corporate ladder. Yet, I am 41, so I feel like this is a bad thing. Do I really want to keep doing what I am doing for the next 20+ years? Maybe I climb one more rung. Do I really want that added pressure, politics, and stress? Yet I like what I do; if my boss were to quit tomorrow I might even say I love what I do. So I know I am in the right field and position, but should I not want more? What does it say about me if the honest answer is no? This is why I could never be an entrepreneur. I just don’t have the drive or the energy or the ambition to do much more than what I am doing right now. So I like that you admit that you would rather have a life than have ambition. We need more people, especially women, to say that it is okay to step off the ladder and live! Here’s to a fantastic 2018 for us all!

    • Debbish
      January 7, 2018

      Michelle the biggest realisation came for me in 2011 – 2012. I realised I wasn’t going to have kids and maybe never even had a partner. My dad died and a couple of people I knew had cancer so the concept of mortality was confronting.

      I did exactly as you said… I was in my early 40s and realised I might have 15-20 years of work ahead of me (and I had that behind me). I didn’t want to continue as I’d been going. I didn’t want to keep waiting for my life to start. It was like I was waiting: to lose weight; fall in love; have enough money; be in a job that was suitably impressive and fulfilling. And yet I think I was turning 43 and I’d been waiting for 20yrs already. Of course during that time I’d lost weight, regained it and had a myriad of careers and bought and upgraded places.

      I think I mention in the post (unless I deleted it – I had to cull cos it got too long), my biggest fear is that I will always want ‘more’. After my redundancy I had no mortgage. I should have been able to coast along but as soon as I got a part-time job I sold my place, upgraded and got a mortgage again. So now I’m locked into ‘earning’ for the foreseeable future again. (For me it goes back to the ‘enoughness’ thing I think!) Ugh.

  • Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit
    January 5, 2018

    This a really good New Year ponderings post Deb. Love the line “which I’m sure has since been forgotten… along with Milli Vanilli and the like.” LOL.

    Wish I was sitting having a cup of tea with you right now. We could ponder on this stuff for hours and hours.

    In my coaching business I come across so many people who have hit their mid years and wonder who they are without their work. My biggest challenge is helping people realise “your work is not your worth”. It happens to me too. Who am I if I’m not wearing one of my many hats? Is this perhaps why I wear so many hats? To prove my worth?? We seem to be programmed to believe we are who we are because of what we do. But our legacy is so much bigger than what we’ve achieved. Who we are is our values, our contributions. our experiences, our friendships. The financial bit and how we make our money is only a small part of it. But yet we still feel so defined by that component.

    Three cheers for a fantastic 2018 Deb. Looking forward to hopefully seeing you IRL again very soon! xoxo

    #teamlovinlife

    • Debbish
      January 7, 2018

      I am keen to catch up Leanne and might try to get to Brissy when you’re there in February so we CAN have this conversation!

      And yes… I need to not be defined by work, or my blogging / book reviewing etc… Of course I’m conscious others are defined by their relationships: they’re a mother / wife / daughter etc… and I think that’s as problematic for many. Perhaps it’s about increasing the balance so I’m AS defined by other stuff as I am by work / blogging etc…?

  • Michelle W (@pinkypoinker)
    January 5, 2018

    I am not ambitious at all. I have to enjoy my work but I’m a follower not a leader. I like your comment about focussing on what you do not who you are. I make the same resolution every year and break it on Jan 2. It’s to not leave the house looking like a slob. Perhaps I should think of a new resolution. Have a great year Deb x

    • Debbish
      January 7, 2018

      It’s interesting Michelle as I have a blog post from YEARS ago, wallowing in my drafts folder about being a ‘support act’. I mention in the post that many of my positions were in the background. Edgy but interesting… the diplomatic thing, but also life as an Executive Officer to govt Deputy Directors-General, Chief Executives and Boards and Commissions. It’s like I’m happy to be in something that is associated with power but isn’t really in a leadership role. (In that I talk about growing up with a high-achieving big brother and my role as the adoring younger sibling. Which I was perfectly happy with, but I wonder if that kinda defined me in some ways….)

  • seizetheday20
    January 7, 2018

    The burning ambition of my youth left me burnt out! I’m no longer very ambitious, but I do have some things I want to do/be/achieve in my lifetime. Having said that, I’m not gonna have a nervous breakdown if they don’t eventuate. It’s all about finding what’s important to you, what works and WHY 🙂 x #TeamLovinLife

    • Debbish
      January 8, 2018

      I worry a bit about the extent of my regret if I don’t pursue some things I think I’d like to….

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