How To Thrive Beyond Your Professional Identity

Unlived dreams and a restless spirit:

It’s time to confront the life you could lead beyond the confines of your job title.

Your career does not preclude you from becoming someone else.

It’s easy to fall into the identity trap wherein you are your title.

You’re not a one-trick pony; look at other avenues of your life.

You’re a spouse, partner, sibling, son, daughter, nephew, niece, parent, brother, sister, grandson, granddaughter, cousin, friend, mentor, and whatever else I may have missed.

When you go to your favorite deli, you’re not your title; you’re the person who always orders a turkey sandwich.

But we gloss over all the categories we fall into because they’re not what we do. We created our careers and invest most of our waking hours into it.

Therefore, that’s who we are, and even worse, that’s all we’re capable of.

When we tie our identity to what we presently do, we bury the unlived life within us.

As we approach the second half of our lives, that unlived life becomes restless; it wants, no it needs, to be seen and heard.

It’s the part of us that wants to write, sing, sculpt, paint, teach, or be an entrepreneur. It’s the part of us that wants to be who we always wanted to be before the world told us who we should be.

But we don’t know where to begin because we’re our title and nothing else.

We place ourselves in a box, and our identity becomes our obstacle.

Two challenges are co-occurring, trapping us in our status quo box.

1. If we pursue our unfulfilled dreams, we threaten our existing identity.

2. We’re masters of our current domain and amateurs in our unfulfilled dreams.

Independently, these beliefs are powerful enough to keep us from moving forward. Unfortunately, they’re two sides of the same coin, making it even more challenging.

But the secret to moving through them is the acceptance that as powerful as they may feel, they’re only beliefs.

Far too often, we mistake beliefs for truth.

Let’s examine #1: If we pursue our unfulfilled dreams, we threaten our existing identity.

We have an inherent need to tie ourselves to an identity; we need that solid ground beneath our feet. Anything that threatens our stability is terrifying.

But is it true that you’re no longer a C-Level executive if you start writing a novel?

No, just as you have many identities in other areas of your life, you can also be a C-Level executive and a writer.

You can walk and chew gum at the same time. Unwinding the beliefs that no longer serve us is critical to creating our extraordinary second halves.

Let’s unpack #2: We’re masters of our current domain and amateurs in our unfulfilled dreams.

This one is interesting because there’s a kernel of truth to it.

If we make it to the C-Suite, we’ve achieved a level of mastery in our career. If we’ve never put pen to paper and written a novel, then yes, we’re an amateur, and we don’t like sucking at things.

When we’re on the brink of embarking on a new journey, we tend to focus on where we want to go, how far away it is, and our perceived lack of skill to bridge the gap.

We fear sucking at our dreams because they’re so vital to us and the quality of our lives.

We then couple this fear and sense of overwhelm with our present station in life (our success) and think to ourselves,

“Why would I suck at something when I’m already so good at something else? Why would I do that to do myself?”

The comfort of complacency calls us to safety, and we turn our backs on our unlived lives.

If we want to create purpose-driven, meaningful, and fulfilling second halves, we must remember we didn’t magically appear on the top of our professional mountain.

We were amateurs in the beginning; we didn’t know what we were doing, and we have to remember at one point, we sucked.

We started at the bottom and traversed the challenges and unknowns to reach the pinnacle of our professional success.

Our identity isn’t an obstacle; it’s the evidence we need to move forward toward our unfulfilled dreams.

Our success proves that we can enter the unknown and navigate our fears, discomfort, self-doubt, and impostor syndrome to create the outcome we desire.

At any time, we can transcend our identity and become someone else, and to live the lives we dream of living, we must.

Fear will scream at you to stop because the challenge to our identity is terrifying, but there’s a hidden treasure within that fear.

The louder it screams at you to stop, the more you’re being told exactly where to go.