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Sensing Your Worth

As we count down the last hours of 2008, let’s look at how well we did, rather than just lamenting the horrid year it’s been in general.    That action is particularly important if you’re not currently in the workforce.  One of the things we lose when we leave work behind is the regular assessment of our own performance that comes as part of any job.

It may not be an official “performance appraisal,” but the work environment has ways of letting you know whether you are doing well or not.  Maybe it’s the difficult customer who will only work with you. (Oh, joy!)  Maybe it’s the stack of papers graded or the sleeping toddlers in the nap room.  Maybe it’s the bottom line.  Maybe it’s the novel you’ve gotten far enough to leave in the bottom drawer to “steep.”  Maybe it’s the bottom of the pot you just scrubbed.

Maybe it’s billable hours, projects completed, tons of fish processed, or total sales.  Whatever it is, cherish it if you have it and look for a way to replicate it if you don’t.  Work gives us vital information about how well we are doing.  It has a lot of room for built-in feedback.  And that’s precious stuff.

Those little everyday review processes give you something you really can’t thrive without–a sense of your own competence.  So you really do want some kind of evaluation process in your life, even if paid employment isn’t currently part of the picture.

If we were doing this right from infancy, we’d be using clearly defined personal benchmarks that go beyond the current work setting as we measure our own merit.  This is rare though and hard to maintain.  My younger son used to do it via goal setting, at least before he got sucked into corporate America.  Each January, he’d rework his life goals and commit to what he wanted to make happen that year.  He’d work on making those things happen throughout the year.  Then each December, he’d do his “final reckoning” for that year’s goals and start the process all over.  Goal setting works well for young lions.

It’s a little harder to buy in on once you end up the non-rational depths of personal reality.  What good is a goal if your best strategy for the situation is to surrender to the Divine and accept life as it unfolds?  Goals serve as beacons, but they can lead you onto the rocks if they tilt because of a poor foundation.

But we need something to tell us how well we are doing.  That’s why we love games and those little tests in the Sunday paper.  We need information to confirm our own value.  We seek it even if it’s in some lame game show assessment of what you know.

Sometimes, we don’t even reach for that.  In retirement, we end up leaning on what we used to do to give ourselves validation.   Between jobs, it’s even harder not to rely on the past accomplishments to feel good about yourself.  But history is a weak second as raw material for personal worth.  Authenticity demands you stand tall on what you’re doing NOW.  How do you do that without a title?  Without the regular paycheck? Without the business cards and the company car?

This is the perfect time of year to create something better to take your cues from.  It’s a simple but powerful two step evaluation.  Assess your life with the following two questions.   They are unquenchable signal fires for your personal worth, regardless of the situation.



Your answers pretty much sum up the quality of your life.  If family is important to you, but the vast majority of your time is spent at a job you hate so you can buy stuff you don’t need, you lose,.  Even if your bonus was six figures  If you value learning and growth, but haven’t explored a new idea in six months, you lose. Even if you already hold a PhD in astrophysics and are working on the space shuttle.

To make life worthwhile, regardless of what the economy, the culture, and your favorite sports team are doing, there must be a strong link between what you believe is important and how you spend your time.

If you’re coming from your own truth, what’s important doesn’t stay behind when you leave work.  You take that commitment with you, no matter what the circumstance.  Lay off… botched bailout..organizational implosion–all are temporary obstacles if you keep your focus on doing something about what you think is important.

There is stength in doing the difficult, but only if it’s grounded in your belief that it’s important to get done.

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One Response to “Sensing Your Worth”

  1. Losing Weight…Yeah Right! » Blog Archive » The Silver Mine - Retirement Planning Beyond the $$$ » Blog … Says:

    […] What good is a goal if your best strategy for the situation is to surrender to the Divine and accept life as it unfolds? Goals serve as beacons, but they can lead you onto the rocks if they tilt because of a poor foundation. …[Continue Reading] […]