My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.”
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
I’m not sure how you feel, but in the moment I fear that the world is turning faster and faster, and I cannot catch up. No matter how fast I run, I always run behind.
I thought that I had quit my hamster wheel a couple of years ago.
But there are many hamster wheels on different levels, some more obvious than the other. There is the job level and the family level, the health level or the society level. We currently are stuck in a Corona hamster wheel, feeling fed up, being confused and facing a plethora of contradicting information which makes it very difficult to plan for the future. Previous convictions do not hold true any more. Jobs are no longer secure. Friends and family members can‘t meet, and our sense of community is dwindling away.
So how can we cope with everything going on around us? It’s important to rely on what we have inside of us. Our trust in ourselves, our confidence, our ability to experience a sense of happiness even in difficult times - for example when engaging in a fulfilling activity, no matter whether at work or at home, when observing beautiful things or when going out for a walk in nature.
If you are able to tap into your inner wealth, you have started in the right direction: the building of your inner career. The inner career is that part of your career that lets you experience contentment and satisfaction, which lets you thrive from within, which allows you to measure your wellbeing not only by your bank account balance, but also by the quality of your relationships. A career that aims to grow as a human being, allowing you to learn and experience not merely on a materialistic, but also on a spiritual level. A career that comprises everything dear to you because it is an expression of YOUR, not others’, values.
This is also the part of a career which is most neglected. An outward oriented career is more visible and attracts more praise and attention. Staying stagnant is bad, there is always something that can be done quicker, better, higher. Work more, earn more, purchase more, attain more status symbols. That‘s how we get rewarded and how we experience recognition from our environment. And that‘s how we learn to run and run, in our hamster wheel, where unreflected economic growth still is considered as the one and foremost purpose in life and society for many.
Don‘t get me wrong. An intentional pursuit of an outward oriented career is important. We all value a good income, need recognition, want to feel proud as we gain professional expertise. The outer career begets power, status and impact. All of this - if used towards the right goals and networks - can result in a lot of good and foster society and economic growth. As we are trained to aim for a successful career from early childhood onwards, we know how to advance in an outer career. At least in theory.
But it gets tricky when the relation between outer and inner career falls out of balance. When more money and income are offset by less time and caring for friendships and partners. When overtime, deadlines, constant pressure and non-stop availability cause havoc on your health. When the added value gained is lost by your lack of energy and compassion. When you ask yourself „Can this be all there is?“
A true career is a symbiosis between outside and inside. It does not hollow you out, because it respects and includes your innermost wishes. It does not let you burn out because your inner fire sparkles - your emotions, your dreams, your health. It lets your silent inner voices speak up and it does not condemn precious moments of leisure and contemplation. On the contrary.
The criterias of an inner career are as versatile as mankind. I measure my inner career on my development and growth as an individual as well as a part of a larger community. I also measure it against my options to bring my creativity to fruition and to get into movement - both physically and mentally. This is important to me, and a true career allows me to work and live in alignment with my values.
Then I can feel happy about small things even when surrounded by a pandemic and insecurity. I can feel balanced even if I still have to cope with everyday worries and struggles. Then I can relax with myself and to experience my inner wealth as a gift which I can freely share with others: my strength, my creativity, my support.
When did you last invest in your inner development? Be honest with yourself. Where do you stand in your career?