Choosing work-life goals: Issues of Identity in young (and, non-so-young) adulthood

Washington DC psychologist, psychoanalyst and career coach, Dr. Lynn Friedman, examines the relationship between one's identity and choosing work-life goals.

Author's note: People struggle with career goals for many reasons. Here in Washington, where the emphasis on career is conspicuous, the pressures to pursue a prestigious position are enormous. More troubling: the concern for prestige often eclipses the desire to pursue one's passions. Consequently, I've written extensively on this topic in the Washington Post, the Washington Business Journal column, DC Web Women, as well as in other venues. As I've described elsewhere, many people can be helped by engaging in a series of career development steps, examining:

  1. What do you want to do with your life?.
  2. How do you develop a strategy for pursuing your goals?.
  3. How do you galvanize yourself to get started?

When these strategies fail

However, these strategies are neither useful nor helpful for everyone. I have in mind the often, very bright, young and not-so-young, adults who:

  • despite terrific grades and rock solid educational experiences are working at a job for which they are grossly over-qualified and for which they have no enthusiasm.
  • are very uncertain of what they like, not just at work but avocationally. They are unaware of what they feel.
  • are living at home in their parents' basement with no apparent plan for the future. In fact, they are not even really thinking about the future.
  • are accepting rent money from their folks without any plan for pursuing work or education.
  • are living with an intimate - who's working to pay the rent while they engage in a lengthy job hunt, refusing to take any position that they view as menial, uninteresting or, "beneath" them.
  • pursued a prestigious path in which they now find they have little or no interest -- but, who are unclear as to how to identify their work-life goals.

It's difficult here in Washington DC for people to be without a job of which they feel proud. Washington DC is so work-oriented. Unfortunately, there's a lot of shame and judgment associated with this sort of situation. This is unfortunate inasmuch as with proper evaluation and intervention, most of these kinds of career difficulties can be resolved.

No matter where you are, sooner or later, everyone must face the challenge of identifying and pursuing their life's work, or at least, their life's purpose. And, I do include here the role of full-time role of parent, or taking care of the older generation or finding meaning through volunteerism. Not everyone has to work for pay but nearly everyone struggles with how to forge a meaningful existence.

So, why do people struggle with work-life goals? And, what role do parents play in these challenges? Parents can, albeit, inadvertently, have a profound influence of work-life happiness.

Parents may have a profound influence on career happiness

Parents convey many messages regarding work-life goals. Consider three possible approaches.

Seeking a consultation with Washington DC psychologist Dr. Friedman? Feel free to give her a call at: 301.656.9650

5480 Wisconsin Avenue, Chevy Chase, MD, 20815
(1/2 block from the redline, Friendship Heights Metro)


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