Is your corporate life hijacking your personal identity

Have you ever noticed how your day is planned?

I retired last month after almost four decades of professional service. As I adapt and adjust to a second innings, it occurs to me how much my life was being run by my calendar!

Each day was planned. Numerous meetings were scheduled. Teams calls were the norm. Now when I look at the calendar I realise I can fill it the way I want, with the things that I would want to do and that characterise who I am as a person.

I cannot help but wonder—how come this never happened when I was working full time? It then hit me that the corporate world had completely taken over my personal identity.

I had no say over my calendar. My team or others would look at my calendar, check for my availability, and fill in the slots. Most of the days were the same, only the faces changed in the meetings.

It is therefore a bit startling for me to now look at my empty calendar and experience the emotions associated with it.

The first was absolute horror! Oh my god, how on earth am I going to pass the day? What if I have nothing to do? What if my brain shrinks and I become a sloth? I felt so lost. The image that came to my mind was that of a rudderless boat wobbling away in the sea with no sense of direction and with no destination in mind. It was quite unsettling, I must admit.

Then came thoughts of freedom. Freedom from the daily routine of calls and meetings. Freedom from answering to anyone within the organisation. The freedom to now take charge of my calendar and give it the colour I want! The thrill of filling it with different things and not just calls and/or meetings.

As I embrace the emotions, I cannot help but think that I could have perhaps managed my corporate calendar better. In a way that would have permitted me to seamlessly embrace my real self-worth, which was always there. Omnipresent but lurking in the shadows, peeping occasionally only to have been pushed back because of deadlines and time pressures.

Building your personal identity

If the above resonates with you, it is time then to pay attention to the person that you are and strengthen your personal identity as distinct from your corporate identity.

It is known that people prefer to work in companies whose purpose is aligned with their inner sense of values. These are the employees who are happy and passionate about their jobs. But the danger is that this purpose may subsume your personal purpose in life.

Begin by looking at your calendar once again. Do you have slots filled in for your hobbies and interests? Is there any time allotted for doing what you have always wanted to do? It could be learning something new, reading, or even picking up the pen and writing!

Step two, look at your network. Do you only socialise with professionals of your kind? Are your friends mostly from the corporate setup? To really find your purpose and rhythm, you will need to find a social network outside of work. Maybe join a group of trekkers if that appeals to you.

Next, pay attention to your health while you are still young and have the energy to exercise. Health worries creep in silently and often catch us unaware. It is always beneficial to stay healthy.

Do not leave financial matters to the end. Take control of your finances and plan that getaway that you have been eyeing for long!

Look at that boat again. Maybe it is not rudderless. It is you being still, reading a book, and enjoying the rhythm.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sarita Bahl
Sarita Bahl is an alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Sciences and the Swedish Institute of Management Program. An experienced and versatile leader, she comes with nearly four decades of professional experience. She has over the years successfully overseen the communications and public affairs function and led the corporate social responsibility strategy for Bayer South Asia, Pfizer, and Monsanto, among others. Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, the public sector, trade associations, MNCs, and the not-for-profit sector. Her areas of interest include advocacy, stakeholder engagement, sustainability, and communications.

As an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and Senior Practitioner (Mentoring) from the European Council of Mentoring and Coaching (EMCC), Sarita specializes in career transition, inner engineering and life issues. Sarita enjoys writing and is passionate about animals, books, and movies.

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