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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Battle of the Golden Handcuffs and Mucky Muck

What a glorious day it is when I wake up with the stresses of my life causing me to grind my teeth - LITERALLY! Lately I've realized that I have plenty on my plate o' things to do and can't seem to slow down. I'm sure many of you have had semesters like that. Where you can't ever seem to slow down because of all the expectations that seem to rest on your reputation as a producer of quality work. I say reputation because that's exactly what I'm trying to keep up with a to not disappoint or piss off someone. What makes this time especially stressful is attempting a job search.

I entered this position 4 1/2 years ago and I've now come to conclude that I'm an overachiever. I want to do all for these students that I can within the powers of my magic wand. With the flick of the wrist, I give myself the energy of 5 men to complete program after program at a break-neck pace. In the early years (it's really not that long ago - I swear) I did everything because people asked me. When people realize you are skilled in an area you become the "go-to-person" and they start spreading your name around campus. Next thing you know, you're on twelve committees, 5 sub-committees, 2 planning groups, and having lunch meetings because you don't have enough time to schedule another meeting outside of eating a proper lunch.

I started thinking about how I found my way to this lifestyle. I think our Merit Process has a lot to do with it. If you're not familiar with that process - here's the short and quick of it. You do things outside of your job description that adds to the overall success of the university and you show that you've gone above and beyond the call of duty in regard to your job description. This means taking on committee work, being committee chair, becoming published, community service, being elected to national and regional offices, doing presentations at conferences, etc. The more you do while juggling your own job earns a merit increase. It can be quite nice and a key motivator for many a things... The extra money is lovely but lovely at what expense?

This morning as I ground my teeth and stretched as I had my cup of coffee before my short commute. I happened to look at my bookshelf and saw a book I had bought a while back but OBVIOUSLY hadn't read yet. "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff at Work" by Richard Carlson, Ph.D. I opened this book and it automatically landed on the Don't Be Trapped by Golden Handcuffs tip. How ironic I thought. I have definitely placed a set of golden handcuffs on myself. With each merit increase I spent more. A bigger apartment. A new car. A new computer. A trip out of town. Racking up credit debt and a lifestyle that requires me to make as much money as I am. Basically expecting to live a life to match the income that I THOUGHT made me look more successful to others. How STUPID! As I read this section I thought about how I could unlock those handcuffs. I hate shackles.

Do I really need a three bedroom apartment to share with a roommate? Do I really need 300 channels to surf on the cable box? Did I truly need that Wii video game console? How about that Tivo? What about high-speed internet? Well.. wait.. I do LOVE my internet... so that's a yes, I do need it.

I say all of this to say Notorious B.I.G. had it right - "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems". That' s not to say that those golden handcuffs are tight but they are making me a tad uncomfortable. My need to satisfy my physiological needs are in jeopardy. I need to quote Oprah here - It's time to Remember My Spirit! It's time to downsize.

The Golden Handcuffs can trap you into believing that you have to make "X" amount of money to live. In reality I lived perfectly fine before the merit increases. In fact, I even lived alone and paid all my utilities, had a modest cable channel assortment and (of course) high speed internet. However, nearly a year ago I felt as though I didn't have enough money even after a $3000 raise! How R-I-D-I-C-U-L-O-U-S!

I say all of this to raise the question - is making more money in turn, making you more happy? Is your quality of life where you'd like it? Are you finding yourself in the same financial debacle as you were when you made less money? Are your essential needs being met? That lack of a sense of belonging seeming to belittle you? Is your esteem beginning to lull? Is your current job not fulfilling your career goals yet you stay for the pay? Are you self-actualizing your hopes, dreams and goals?

As I begin this job search - I'm beginning to realize what's important this time around. I want a better quality of life - mentally, physically, and socially. I want to be able to do my job well, have a life at home, and be able to indulge in my hobbies. I'm determined to find that. If I have to make concessions to my current lifestyle I'm okay with that - since when did acquiring "things" by any financial means necessary become a necessity and a low quality of life become consequential?

In the last few months I read an article about why people enjoy their jobs. In the article, it wasn't so much that they enjoyed what they did for a living - it was more to the fact that their needs for a high quality of life were met. People who are happy at work and have longevity love the city they live in, have a strong base of friends, and the ability to enjoy activities outside of work. It also mentioned that a healthy dose of challenging work and a sense of accomplishment also factors in there. Now - that's not to say if you're unhappy in one area of your life you need to pack it up and go - it's just a thought about what helps you to have the quality of life you desire. That leads us into values - and that's a WHOLE other blog because I'm an INTJ on the MBTI - and I will surely have an opinion on that! Yep.. I do enjoy those personality inventories for PERSONAL UNDERSTANDING from time to time. If you've read a previous blog of mine... you know what I'm getting at - HA HA!

So enough with all of the mucky muck! This wonder boy is on his way to self-actualize a new way of thinking about work, life, health and his pursuit of happiness.

Holla back y'all!

(and yes, I stole that mucky muck/wonder boy stuff from Tenacious D! - OMG.. a new nickname for me! biggrin)

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