Work <-> Self

What is the relation between “work” and our sense of “self” or our identity? How does work impact our non-work actions, choices, and relationships?

On Dec 20th, we started with these questions, moving on to discuss life in theory and practice (of values, work-life balance, etc.), the role of motivation in productivity, making beliefs practical, identity as a spectrum, the grand culture of “purpose” and “passion,” self-care, working with spouses or family, and more.

Here’s some of our questions, reflections, and takeaways — best used as just a starting point for your own takeaways:


  • Maybe motivation is not an everyday thing? When I have it, I am creative! When I don’t, I look for it. If it doesn’t come, I need to buckle down and just do the work.
  • I use a point system (for produtivity, for romance and relationships). A system means I do not leave it up to chance… my “mood” or “whim” of the moment.
  • Motivation is a spectrum, not just 0-1. It feels different everyday.
  • I’m finally happy where I am — though, I’m having the least fun.
  • It is ok to be uncomfortable, to feel unmotivated.
  • It is ok to be in transitition, to be in-between many things.


  • For me, there’s “Big P Passion” and “little p passion.” The latter is fun and enjoyable… the former is something I’d be willing to suffer for.
  • When am I operating from the fear of not moving forward? Rather than curiosity or drive or a greater goal?
  • I see now that meaning does that have to come from work… it can come from family, friends, hobbies, and non-work sources
  • Maybe purpose is not from salaried work
  • Maybe it’s about finding meaning wherever you are
  • Work can play a variety of roles — as a means to an end,  life’s purpose, an art, a place to play, a thing that you do that is not the main thing
  • Comfort (and perhaps happiness) seems separate from purpose. Long-term purpose often requires shorterm discomfort and even unhappiness?
  • Is purpose overrated?
  • Does the culture put too much pressure on purpose-driven work and making an impact (as big and as soon as possible)
  • I can’t evalute whether or not I’m doing purposeful work every DAY — if I did, I would quit often an nothing would get done
  • Knowing the bigger purpose helps me get through the lull, the hard moments


  • I know my values, and I’ve found it hard to always practice them once other people come into the picture
  • When do other people or situations challenge what I value? What do I do about it?
  • Maybe deciding/creating/artistic direction is a completely separate mood/state from executing
  • Research shows the self is a spectrum — we are different in different places, and that’s not a conflict or contradiction
  • Practicing “self as a spectrum” is hard… I want to be completely consistant, all the time. I want how I look at myself to be similar to how others, in different circles, look at me
  • Each trait or value we have can be positive to negative at different times and situations
  • Self-employment makes accountability much tougher. I always end up working on what other people require from me
  • Sometimes I have to “force” myself to do something, even things I care about. I’d like to feel more ok about this?
  • When do I feel like a fraud, separate from myself?


  • What responsibility do I believe I have toward others/teammates? To be happy? To say “yes?”
  • What do I tolerate from others? Do I want to stop that?
  • I take care to make sure my team members think everything is fine… I don’t ask for help until the very last moment and want to appear skilled, to not have them worry
  • Do you seperate work and home life? Are you personal with colleagues? Are there things you won’t share?
  • When are you proud, accomplished, or happiest?
  • Working with a partner or family member is high risk — you are potentially so much closer to them, more able to communicate and understand each other. But the line between work and life or romance easily becomes blurred. They overflow into each other.
  • How do you establish boundaries?
  • How do you have a conversation about boundaries? Perhaps on hours for work, or how to deal with fights or bad moods, or how to support each other, or how to make decisions in an emotional situation.


  • I make sure to check-in with myself constantly — then, I can be creative when I’m feeling great and make sure to nurse myself back to health
  • What do I really need for day-to-day? What is my bottomline? Where am I willing to compromise?
  • I make sure to operate from good faith toward others — always believing that other’s intend the best, but our ideas of best may be different
  • I practice “emotional hygiene”  — regular self-reflection, taking the first step to set boundaries with others, experimenting with needs
  • I got burned out because I was completely focused on making sure work and team members were good. Work distracted me from what I was personally experiencing.


  • At a certain point, formal instruction is useless and all we need are reminders of what we already know — what do I need to remind myself about work, identity, motivation, productivity, etc? How can I put reminders in suitable places? How can I make reminders physical?
  • Some of this sounds “cheesy” because I’ve heard it before. I can feel myself wanting to skip over that idea. But, I know it is valuable. How do I make sure to put it into practice? What’s an easy way to start?
Angela OgnevWork <-> Self
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