“It’s not much of a tail but I’m sort of attached to it.”
Poor Eeyore. He had a lot of problems with his tail. Had he been in today’s workforce, deciding where he was the best fit, those issues would have pointed him in the right direction.
Winnie the Pooh’s friend has a view on life that would be described as glum. And yet, he was often profound in what he had to say.
He also had an intriguing relationship with his tail. As you can tell from the above quote, he wasn’t particularly proud or impressed with it though it is an integral part of his life.
I think we can relate. Studies on self talk show that a high percentage (80% on one study) of our thoughts are negative.
Laurence G. Boldt, author of Zen and the Art of Making a Living, eloquently identifies one of those voices in our head as the Voice of Self Diminishment. It has the effect of stopping us cold in our urge to move forward.
When the Voice speaks to our inner world, it is a mean critic.
In my line of work, there is nothing like looking at gifts, talents, desires and dreams to bring out that Voice.
What the Voice speaks to our outer world, it says:
- “Oh, that thing. Anyone can do that.”
- “What I do isn’t spectacular. Think of ___________.”
- “Well, I could actually make money doing that.”
That is enough to bury any dream.
There is a powerful core part of being a human with a deep desire to do something bigger.
When I was a young woman entering the workforce, I paid a lot of attention to what I could do. What were my skills? What places could I use them? At some point I was grateful to get a job; it didn’t matter what I was doing.
I felt like Eeyore. I downplayed my attributes and certainly had no clue of my strengths, never mind how to use them in a workplace.
Sometimes that Voice of Self Diminishment was very active especially when I was feeling restless in my boring tasks. I compared myself to others. They seemed perfectly happy doing their work. What was wrong with me?
Sometimes I saw a life I wanted to emulate. Mary Tyler Moore.
Like Eeyore, I wasn’t that impressed with what I had.
I put a great deal of effort into trying to make myself fit into a mold, into telling myself I needed an attitude shift, and into paying too much attention to the outside world.
As I continued in my work world, a question kept arising:
“Is this how my entire life will be?”
The impetus behind that inquiry is what drove me to submit my resignation letter, many times, once when I was 7 months pregnant. I was bold.
Even if I wasn’t paying attention to what I wanted to do.
What I was discovering was what Eeyore was puzzling about – I couldn’t ignore parts of myself. Pretty important parts.
After all, a tail is a signature for a donkey.
Over time, I started looking more inwards. At first I noticed what was not working for me. Like repetitive tasks. Then I started paying more attention to what did. Tools like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator gave me a new understanding of who I was, at the core.
I could see advantages in differing ways of looking at the world.
I was also able to see some beliefs that had been in the driver’s seat of my life, ideas embedded a long time ago.
I was becoming more and more comfortable with who I am. The bonus was I was getting clearer and clearer about the good work fit for me.
So what I discovered was this:
In the equation of finding work that mattered to me, knowing myself was a core variable.
I now see the equation like this:
Whenever it is time to go down the path to find work that matters, whether it has been foisted upon us or by a choice of our own, it always begins with Who I Am.
In many images of Eeyore, he wears a pink ribbon on his tail. I think of it as his celebration of a tail that might not be the greatest but it does belong to him.
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