Your Job Does Not Define You

Society has led me to believe that feelings of contentment translate to being lazy and having no ambition. I told myself I would never let myself get comfortable with where I was in my career, or even from a personal standpoint.

When it comes to your job, it’s not a question of whether or not you’re ambitious; rather, it’s about what your ambitions are.

My ambitions consisted of chasing a salary and a title. With hard work, my determination was focused on climbing the corporate ladder the quickest way possible.

When I got my first job, the environment and people I was surrounded by were beyond desirable, but there was this lingering mindset that I was not climbing the ladder fast enough.

Over the course of the past couple of years, I began to ask questions about my purpose, and what all of this stuff means. The realization that we spend a third of our lives at our jobs and only a handful of hours each day, or even week, pursuing the things that make us who we are, shook me to my core.

This feeling was the catalyst that redirected my ambitions. Life is too short to be putting in endless amounts of effort towards something you aren’t emotionally invested in.

Here’s how to see the job you may dread a little bit differently:

You are in a “choose yourself” economy.

There’s no such thing as job security, no matter where you work. Everyone is replaceable, unless you choose yourself. Tweet this

Choosing yourself means putting yourself first; it doesn’t diminish your loyalty or invested interest you have in your organization. It’s not being selfish, it just shifts the mindset in how you view and approach your job.

Whether you work for somebody in a cubicle or you work for yourself, you are the boss of your output and your space. Tweet this

Choose yourself and own your work. Your work creates a brand that supports something much larger than you.

You’re planting seeds for your future self.

If you’re glossing over and just going through the motions each day, know that the reality of those actions snowballs into something much greater.

It starts to follow you outside of your job, into your personal space, which then manifests into who you become; it’s who you actually are.

Everything you do is a seed planted for your future self. Be intentional in how you spend your time at your job. Regardless of the environment, you, in that very moment, are in it and that very moment is part of your story. Be intentional and purposeful.

Your job doesn’t define you; you define your job.

I decided my job and set of responsibilities weren’t going to succumb me; they weren’t going to define me. I would define them.

When you shift your mindset and approach your job in this manner, it’s no longer a job; instead, it’s part of your total body of work. It’s no longer about chasing something outside of yourself, like a salary or title.

The feeling and stress of needing to put in the hours in hopes of climbing the corporate ladder are gone. Instead, that energy is refocused in putting forth the effort where you can offer the most value through the best version of yourself.

You gain a sense of clarity as you go throughout your day. There’s greater focus on the art at hand, and your work becomes less about the politics and more about doing great things.

It’s only a job if you treat it that way.

If you wake up each morning dreading the next eight hours, I encourage you to reflect on your workday. Look at the things you are doing, and who you are working with and for. What things make you tick and what do you dread?

There could be a point where leaving is your best option, but I realized in the past few years that I had a tendency to give up too quickly.

I gave up too quickly because my ambitions were outside of who I really was. My ambitions didn’t align with my values and my core desired feelings; therefore, I would get burnt out or seek change that supported my old ambitions.

Contentment is being grateful for what you have; contentment is when your personal needs are being met. Tweet this

Ambition comes from the desire to better your total body of work by putting in the effort to be a better version of yourself than you were the day before. This is the fuel for your growth and evolution.

The truth is, regardless of the type of job you have or where you are in the corporate hierarchy, you are much more than just a job and set of responsibilities.

Choose yourself; find ways to make your job your own; become indispensable. Don’t let the position take ownership of who you are.

This not only benefits and supports your self growth journey, but also offers tremendous benefit to your employer and your organization’s purpose.

It’s now about something much larger than just you.

This post originally appeared on Elite Daily.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

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About Eric Ungs

Eric Ungs writes about a journey of intentional self growth, nudging you to let go; to give yourself permission to be vulnerable and honest with yourself so you can give your best self to others. Author of 10 Incredible Ways to Live a Fulfilling and Joyful Life ebook.


  1. Hi Eric,

    Found your guest post in Becoming Minimalist and congratulations, it was awesome!

    I agree. I work an 8-5 job here in the Philippines for almost 7 years and my goal is to climb the corporate ladder and like you, I am stubborn. I do not give up easliy.

    I have started a blog this month and my goal is to leave my job soon and to become like the successful blogging experts in the niche of personal development while doing what I love – writing and helping and inspiring people along the way.

    Great post and will be visiting often!


  2. I just read the article about being defined as a person by the work that I do. I am in the midst of a job transition at age 61 and just over 35 years at the same job. That transition is also bringing with it many feelings of intrepidation and wondering what will happen. My new career isn’t really something new to me, but rather an extension of a life-long avocation in music, so learning a new skill won’t be necessary.

    Thank you for your writing, you have a wonderful gift of sharing, and inspiring!

  3. I always struggled with work because I thought I should be climbing the corporate ladder but it just wasn’t for me. I made me feel lazy and unambitious.
    Just over a year ago, I, like you, realised that I am not unambitious but that my ambitions lie elsewhere. I left the workforce to be a stay at home mum. I am loving it as my family is where my heart is and I’ve got involved with volunteer work that aligns with my values.
    I am very content where I am. It’s crazy but I do get that feel from “the world” sometimes that I am lazy for no wanting more, striving for more. That is why it is so great to connect with people with a similar mindset to mine.

    1. Eric Ungs

      Congratulations Amy, for taking the leap in following your heart! So happy to connect : )

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