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Who Are You When the Professional In You Meets Baby?

Are you a professional?

Notice how the questions differs from, "Do you have a profession?"

To enter a profession, you invested an enormous amount of time, energy and money. Then you put great effort into earning the respect of clients and colleagues. Now you continually sharpen and update your professional skills.

Your profession has become a major part of your identity. Your profession is a key source -- maybe even the main source -- of meaning and purpose in your life. You feel good when others affirm your professional status and skills.

Your professional role is so woven into the fiber of your being that your don't merely HAVE a profession. You ARE a professional.

All well and good.

Your professional identity can bolster your integrity when you're facing difficult clients or temptations to cut corners. You can take pride in the high standards you set for yourself.

At the same time, your professional identity is only one part of you.

Overwork can unduly inflate the "professional" part of your ID equation. In Work to Live (The Berkley Publishing Group, 2003), author Joe Robinson notes that a job can become "the tail that wags the dog."

When that happens, "you're conditioned to feel as good, or as bad, as your latest performance, your worth always hanging in the balance," Robinson writes. "You have to prove yourself all over again with every task."

Much better if YOU call the tune.

A more resilient identity rests on the full range of who you are: devoted spouse, enthusiastic cook, avid reader, attentive mother, fearsome karate student, passionate gardener, loyal friend, seeker of spiritual truth.

Children are another reason to keep your professional identity from ballooning out of proportion. For one thing, you kids probably couldn't care less about it (though they enjoy the material perks that come with it). For another, attachment to the "strokes" your profession gets you can keep you stuck in work that doesn't work.

Learning to wear your professional identity more lightly is a shift that takes time, patience and a clear intention. You might want to set aside a few moments to reaquaint yourself with your non-professional values, goals and passions. Family members and friends can help you add to your list.

Robinson suggests creating a business card for your non-job identity, with a title related to your personality or a hobby, e.g., "Soulful Gourmet." Robinson recommends pulling out the card often "as a reminder of your real business: to partake in as much of this planet as you can while you can."

The reward is a world of fresh possibilities.

You are much, much bigger than the professional in you.

(c) 2004 Norma Schmidt, Coach, LLC

P.S. If you like the non-professional business card idea, you can choose from a variety of templates for free cards at www.vistaprint.com.

Norma Schmidt, Coach, LLC, specializes in helping working mothers create balance. She offers workshops, teleclasses and individual and group coaching. She also publishes "The Balance Point," a free e-mail newsletter. Visit http://www.NormaSchmidt.com to learn more.

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