My Blog

Good Work Should Feel Inspired

I’m a second generation immigrant. I’m proud of my Chinese heritage, but I’m also learning to shed unhelpful beliefs about work.

I have a vivid memory of watching my mother working in bed on a Sunday. She was a designer for her own fashion line, and she was going through magazines for inspiration. I remember her ripping out pages for her designs.

I equally remember her anxiety. Her constant sighs and dejected face. The stress came off her in waves.

This is how I thought work should look.

Fast forward 15 years later, and I grew to have the Sunday Scaries. I felt the pressure of Mondays rob me of my Sundays.

For the first 7 years of running my startup I worked weekends. I obeyed this imprinted command from childhood to be constantly working.

People applauded my work ethic, but it was also killing me. I succeeded in a world where you respond within minutes to any text or email. But I could never unplug. My mind was racing.

We all grow up with imprints of what work should be.

What did you see modeled with your family?

Was work about thriving or surviving? Was it a slog or a passion?

I saw my parents toil at work for years, working weekends, taking only 2 weeks off a year.

This was the imprint of the immigrant: work should be a grind.

Work has been a method of survival for most generations, immigrants or not.

The idea of work aligning with passion seemed like such a privileged Western idea to me.

Yet here I am today, sipping a $7 matcha latte at my work-from-home desk, challenged with this new idea of work as a vehicle for self expression. For self-development. For impact.

But the old ideas of work for survival are deeply encoded.

For those of us with higher education and access to opportunities, we have the blessing of work being a conduit for something higher in us. And we have the opportunity to balance our work.

My immigrant Chinese side still scoffs at the idea of having balance. I have been trained to work to the bone, it’s how my family succeeded in China and eventually how they lived the American Dream.

We have a tendency to live in the past with narratives that our families of origin define for us. These beliefs have been passed down from generation to generation for millennia.

We don’t have to throw out everything, we can choose to keep the traditions we love and the wisdom of our families.

And life has changed. Many of us have better opportunities than our parents and grandparents did.

It’s time for us to adapt to and accept a new paradigm for work.

This paradigm:

  • sees work as a way to thrive over survive.
  • embraces work flexibility to support freedom.
  • uses work mojo and income as a way to build connection with loved ones, not as a replacement.
  • includes healthy boundaries so work doesn’t take over our lives.

The funny thing is? The more I’ve embraced my work as a contribution to society, a way to share my gifts, and a method for indulging my passions, the more wealth I’ve created.

I coach 3 days a week. The more I embrace flexibility, the more vibrant I am for my clients. I show up with enthusiasm for life because I am enthusiastic about my life.

Take 15 minutes to re-write your limiting beliefs about work:

What is one negative, suffocating story about work that you’d like to change? For instance:

  • Good work has to feel hard (and more from my guide)
  • To do work right, I have to do it myself
  • I have to be willing to give up everything for my company’s success

Write out the story or stories in bullet points.

Now write out the opposite of each story. For example:

  • Good work should feel inspired
  • To do things right, I must invest in my team
  • I must learn how to rest for my company’s success

Pick one of these new, expansive stories that feels the most exciting for you. Put it on a post-it note on your mirror. Or as the background on your phone.

When I introduce a new story into my life with visual aids, it starts to come alive. Even if it doesn’t initially feel true.

I start to imagine what life would feel like if I tried the belief on, like trying on a new pair of pants.

I encourage you to run mental experiments with this new story and see how it serves you.

Try this exercise this week and let me know how it goes!

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