WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOUR CAREER BECOMES YOUR WHOLE IDENTITY (https://hbr.org/2019/12/what-happens-when-your-career-becomes-your-whole-identity?utm_campaign=hbr&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook) resonated with me. A lay off will do that to a person I guess, question their existence, their purpose and their future. Unlike in the article, I fortunately loved my job, and according to my wife a little too much at times. It was hard not to. People set their sights on career markers and in sport science, many aim to work with professional organizations. For me that was never the draw, where I was, was where I exactly wanted to be. I relished in the challenges, I had a deep appreciation for the athletes and the opportunities, and the staff were people I cared about.

But in the song ILLENIUM by Jon Bellion he sings, “I’m coming to terms with a broken heart. I guess that sometimes good things fall apart.” June 25th at roughly 4:30. I’ll never forget that conversation and the one the next day. It all fell apart. “It’s a business decision.” I’m not mad, not bitter, just sad. I always thought that I would leave on my own accord and a big part of me was embarrassed. We all have pride; some people it is possessions, some status at work, but for me it was the role. Not bad for a kid who had a teacher say, “he’s not going to amount to anything.”. The day I was asked to join my former work, I had never been more proud. It was process of 11 years of school, making great connections, demonstrating work ethic, and gaining the experience so that I could get my foot in the door. When the first Monday after the layoff came, I woke up and asked Google Assistant my daily routine. It plays the local news, then the world news. At the end, it tells me my daily schedule, but this time is said “you have nothing on the schedule for today.” That struck me like a kick to the stomach, and for the first time in my working career, I had no plan and/ or direction. I had a hard time functioning that day and honestly each day since has been a rollercoaster of emotions. “Psychologists use the term “enmeshment” to describe a situation where the boundaries between people become blurred, and individual identities lose importance. Enmeshment prevents the development of a stable, independent sense of self. I asked my wife, “who am I if I am not working with teams, with athletes. I have zero purpose outside the four walls of my own home.”

The environment provided pressure to perform, could have odd hours and came with the prestige of working with some of the best athletes in the world. That combined with the work ethic instilled by my father made this enmeshment even more pronounced. The position that I held was highly valued in the sport world, and I always felt privileged that I had the role I did. This could be an annoyance to my family, as it meant that I could justify going in on weekends, working in the evening on programs, not taking holidays in the summer because “that’s our busy time.” And as the years passed on, and I was becoming more confident in my abilities, I lost more sense of who I was outside of the walls of the training centre. The hobbies and interests I had were tied to my work, and books obviously were related to training and leadership. I always feared that at my age, and opportunities within the area it would be especially difficult for me in the mid to late stages of my career to find a suitable role in the field in the case of a layoff. The article above states that, “No matter how it happens, becoming disconnected from a career that forms the foundation of your identity can lead to bigger issues, such as depression, anxiety, substance use, and loneliness.” I can relate to the anxiety and loneliness, and hope to avoid the other two.

Free time is both a blessing and curse, as it is only productive if you have something to fill it. So outside of daily routine of checking job boards and sending applications, the plan was to start small. What little things can be controlled, and tackling a list of tasks that need to be accomplished allowed for a sense of accomplishment, purpose. Projects that were on lists could now be re-evaluated, or revived. It was also a chance to reach out and rebuild a network that was outside the wonderful people I was honoured to share office space with. But more than anything, a very wise mentor said it was my time to “decide what is important to me”. As in the article, it is labeled as Values Clarification. I was so hyper-focused on my role that aspects became automatic, and I lived the values that were on the training centre walls. It is not that I do not believe in the values, but what do the values mean to me and how will the guide me as I move forward alone.

The biggest learning moment so far has been looking beyond your job title. I have had to reframe my relationship to my career not simply in terms of company or title, but in terms of my skills that could be used across different contexts. My resume was always up to date for the purpose of certification reporting, but now it had to be functional. It had to have abilities that were/ are attractive to potential employers. At first it was very heavy on the program delivery, but over 10 years I had gathered skills that, as I said earlier, performed automatically, because it was part of the daily normal. Once again, this fantastic mentor came in and helped me to see what I have to offer, because at first the my outlook was dire. But the more I am able to connect, talk passionately again of what excites me, drives me, and helps me get up in the morning, the vision is a little more clear.

Am I content where I am at this moment? No, because from the time I was 14 I have had a job or a plan. But this process is here to teach me something. Maybe this was the reset I needed to find myself again, redevelop a passion or find purpose. I have read, and have shared “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho to numerous friends, athletes and students. And it is time for me to re-read and “to realize one’s destiny is a person’s only obligation.”

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