When we are in the corporate bubble, we are like a goldfish in a bowl. The goldfish is surrounded by water but it can’t see it. It is unaware of the water’s importance – until it jumps out and suddenly it’s flapping around struggling to survive.
Here are ten things that you got from the corporate ecosystem that you just didn’t realise were important to you at the time.
We are wired for connection, we need regularly social interaction to stay healthy. In corporate land you are surrounded by people, social interaction is unavoidable (even if you wished a few of the people were).
Since the earliest days of man, when we began to gather into tribes, we have had a strong need to belong. That sense of being part of something bigger is essential to our well-being. As John Donne put it “No man is an Island, entire of it self; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main.” In Corporateland we are part of the organisation and, whether our feelings are positive or negative about the organisation, our need to feel we belong is fulfilled.
Who we are is often wrapped up with what we do, with our jobs. Being in a corporate role gives us an identity, a label that we can use in the world that is easily accepted and understood.
When you have a position in an organisation, it automatically gives you a status. People look up to you as their manager, others look to you as a subject expert or the ‘go to’ person on a particular topic. You might exercise authority on behalf of the organisation as a budget holder, or a spokesperson, or a negotiator. You are ‘someone’, in that ecosystem.
You may hate being at the beck and call of others who decide where and when you have to show up but having a structure given to you means you can just focus on what you do within it. Not only do you have a place in the hierachy but there’s also a structure to your day, week, month and year. Reports, meetings, events, processes – these give you a framework to operate in. You don’t have to think about them (other than how to get out of the boring ones!).
There’s a lot going on in any large organisation. You don’t have to go looking for activity, it’s comes to you. You just have to decide what you want to get involved in and what you want to avoid and then try your best to navigate your way through it all (without getting lumbered with organising the Christmas party).
It’s swirling around you all the time and sometimes you feel like you are drowning in the bloody stuff. There’s a cacophony of voices, opinions, instructions, thoughts and ideas. It’s coming at you incessantly, through formal and informal channels (the gossip is way more interesting, right?) and all you have to do is filter out the crap so you only get what you want and need.
We all need good feedback to improve our work and to develop as individuals. In the corporate world we get plenty, even when it’s not asked for and not welcome! As well as the formal processes of evaluation and appraisal, we can easily find people to act as sounding boards for our ideas or to be mentors and guides for us.
Being part of an organisation gives us a purpose, a direction. It could be the corporate strategy or the company mission that inspires us. It may be that we have goals and objectives for our team or our project that we want to realise. Maybe we are just ‘earning a living’ in order to fulfil our purpose as a parent or spouse. It’s probably not our ‘life purpose’ but it’s something we don’t particularly have to think about too hard. We can always craft some sort of purpose out of the situation.
As part of a large organisation, we have a wealth of opportunity at our fingertips, even if we don’t recognise that all the time. We have the opportunity to move to different roles, different parts of the business, sometimes different countries. We have opportunities for training and development, to meet new people and build new relationships. We have new business opportunities and new challenges. When we are having a bad time these may not always be visible to us but they are always there if we look hard enough.
You are probably glad to leave some of this stuff behind when you leave corporate life but the point is not whether you want it or not, it is that it is automatically available to us. After the Mothership we have to take conscious action to replace these things and create new and better alternatives that suit the life that we are creating. Instead of taking what we are given we get to choose and craft the best options for us.
In our corporate life we just accessed these things without really thinking, we acted unconsciously. Now we have to put in the extra effort to consciously design our own ecosystem to meet these needs. We have to move from being passive to taking action and taking control of our situation.
But becoming conscious, about who we are and what we do, is what life After the Mothership is all about. It’s how we create a better and more fulfilling life.