Don’t ever confuse the two, your life and your work. That’s what I have to say. The second is only a part of the first. -Anna Quindlen
It’s annual performance review time for a lot of people right now. Every spring in companies around the globe, work from the past 12-14 months is complied, analyzed and formulated into a number that dictates a merit based pay adjustment for the following year. Accomplishments are acknowledged, and opportunities for growth are identified. Depending on the outcome, it can be stressful, status quo, or the best half hour of the year. The review process is a huge part of modern business culture, and one that is probably not going to change anytime in the near future. The question that comes to mind today is this: How can we take the score – the outcome – from the previous 12-14 months, and keep it from dictating how we feel about our worth, both to ourselves and to our employer?
The whole process is innocent enough, perhaps. Some will take their score and use the nature of competition to strive for a better one next year. Some will feel proud of their performance and work to keep it that way. Some will feel disappointed. Some will feel angry and unsure why things came out the way they did after a year of what felt like honest and dedicated work. But at the end of the day, regardless of the outcome, for many of us, it will influence how we feel about our worth. We humans have a tendency to let external situations seep into our internal sense of self.
I think this is important to recognize for many reasons. It is important because as compassionate members of the planetary family, we are called to notice and verbalize the strengths of every individual with whom we interact, and it’s hard to do that if we don’t feel good about ourselves after letting a disappointing review or evaluation color our day. It’s hard to do that if we have worked incessantly to maintain stellar performace and are feeling burnt out after pushing so hard for so long. It’s hard to do that when we feel separate- for better or for worse- from those who we see everyday, and when we compare our performance with someone else’s. It’s hard to do that if we let judgment take the place of mindfulness and self-awareness. It’s hard to do that if we feel guilty for feeling burnout or unsatisfied because we have it pretty darn good compared to millions of others on the planet.
So when you feel yourself starting to let a review of your work – on any scale- color your sense of self – for better or for worse – remember that you get to choose how to respond in every situation that comes up in your life. You have the capacity to view whatever happens at work, or at home, or in the spaces between through a lens of abundance, rather than one of scarcity or lack. Remember, as Quindlen does in a commencement address that she wasn’t able to give officially, that “there are thousands of people out there with the same degree you have; when you have a job, there will be thousands of people doing what you do for a living. But you are the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on the bus, or in the car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul.”
May the season of annual reviews – however it might look in your world- be simply another opportunity to remember what is important, and to embrace the fullness that is possible when you remember that you are valuable beyond measure.