There is a lot of bad advice going around these days like:

“You shouldn’t attach your identity to your work if you want to be happy.”

Often these types of comments strike the perfect chord with people who are experiencing burnout. It helps them feel heard, seen and understood, while simultaneously pointing the finger back at work.

When you’ve been carrying the burden of unrelenting work deadlines, the relief you feel from someone telling you it’s okay to take a break and not care so much can be intoxicating.

“I’m stressed because of work. It’s work’s fault.”

While work is likely a major factor in fueling your burnout, work is something you’ll spend ~90,000 hours doing in your lifetime, which means trying to separate your identity from work may not always be the best approach.

Whether we like it or not, work is part of who we are. The answer is not to disassociate from work and remove it from our identity, but instead create better measures of who we are striving to become.

If we don’t intentionally craft these measures of success for ourselves, we default to the measures of success given to us by others like:​

  • If we hit sales target
  • If a project is successful
  • If we receive positive feedback.

Losing Our Identity In Sales

The authors of Big Feeling highlight that when two people lose their own separate identities, psychologists call this enmeshment, which can also occur at work. It happens when individuals tie their self-worth too closely to outputs or measures of their performance.

Goals and outcomes, like whether a deal will close, are outputs often outside of our control; but they will always have us chasing the next carrot or never feeling like we’ve done enough in a day.

To combat this, we need to learn how to create a resilient sales identity by intentionally crafting our own measures of success.

This starts by answering this question:

What does success at X mean to YOU?

The one caveat being:

Your answers cannot be based on an outcome or output.

They must be based on daily behavioral inputs that are firmly in your hands to control. Here is an example:

What does success at “getting in shape” mean to you?

Wrong Answer:

  • “Losing 10 pounds.”

Right Answer:

  • “Exercising 3X a week for a month.”
  • “Eating a healthy salad once a day.”
  • “Not drinking alcohol on weekdays.”

In this example, we no longer tie our identity and happiness to the number that shows up on the scale each morning (output). Instead our identity is tied to whether or not we successfully execute the behaviors we outlined for ourself.

Having a clear understanding of our own measures of success is how we build integrity and self-discipline that allow us to keep ourselves accountable.

The scale then becomes a piece of feedback on our process and not a determinant of who we are as a person (i.e. “I’m a failure”).

Here is another example:

What does success at “being a good parent” mean to you?

Wrong Answer:

  • “My kids love me.”

Right Answer:

  • “Picking them up from school on time.”
  • “Reading to them in bed each night.”
  • “Teaching them one new thing daily.”

Again, clear actions that a parent can action to build a strong parental identity, provided they’re disciplined in executing these behaviors consistently.

​Creating An Identity Where You Feel “Enough”

The best news is this type of approach allows you to be the creator of your own identity.

As my peer Jubal Horton wrote on LinkedIn recently, it allows you to set your own Enough Number.

For example, exercising 3X a week may be enough for me to feel like I’m successfully getting in shape, but your enough number might be exercising once a week, or much more extreme like exercising every day.

Obviously the frequency, intensity and duration of the inputs will have a direct impact on the outputs (i.e. how quickly you lose weight, build a better relationship with your kid, etc.).

This means it’s important to be honest with yourself and set realistic expectations around the pace of change based on the effort you’re putting in.

Determining what is enough for you is an individual exercise. It’s not about what others are doing. It’s about designing a daily process (i.e. set of actions) created for you and by you.

​Building A Resilient Sales Identity

We can now take these learnings to build a resilient sales identity:

What does success at “being a good seller” mean to you?

Wrong Answers:

  • “I hit my target.”
  • “I close a deal.”
  • “The prospect responds.”

Right Answers:

  • “Send 10 personalized emails daily.”
  • “Practice my pitch for 15 minutes.”
  • “Be honest with what’s in my pipeline.”
  • “Be fully present on calls.”
  • “Read 10 pages of a new book daily.”
  • “Prospecting 15 new leads daily.”
  • “Take a walk at lunch.”
  • “Time blocking my calendar.”
  • “Work one task at a time.”
  • “Complete most important task in morning.”
  • “Eat lunch.”
  • “Show myself grace after bad calls.”
  • “Keep detailed notes in the CRM.”
  • “Genuinely caring about my buyers.”
  • “Enforce strong boundaries after hours.”
  • “Go to sleep by 10pm.”
  • “Exercise in the morning.”
  • “Shutdown from work by 5pm daily.”
  • “Make a plan at the end of each day.”

Now I’m not saying you need to execute on all of these actions, but these are ideas to help you get started.

Pick 5 daily actions that are non-negotiables you’re going to do every day over the next week that will contribute towards becoming a better seller.

Keep yourself accountable to this daily process by putting 5 minutes on your calendar at the end of each day and answer these questions:

  1. Complete your non-negotiable actions?
  2. Do you feel like you did enough?
  3. What blocked these actions?
  4. Can you make these actions easier?

Daily Measures & Finding The Right “Pace”

Much like a scale informs us about our weight loss, a sales dashboard is not an indicator of who you are as a person.

It’s feedback on our daily process. What this means is in order to hit your sales target each month or quarter, you need to find the right pace of outputs.

The good news is we can control our pace by focusing on our inputs and by treating our daily process like a scientist who is searching for a predictable formula.

Every week, experiment with how you can add, remove or change your input actions, while using your dashboard and metrics as feedback to help you create the desired pace of outputs (i.e. pacing to sales target).

Good data requires a proper sample size, which means prioritizing weekly and bi-weekly results will help you avoid jumping to conclusions and making changes to your daily inputs after one day of undesirable outputs.

It will also help protect your self-esteem, which is put at risk when we start to use daily measurements from a scale (measuring our weight) or a sales dashboard, less as feedback and instead a measure of our worth.

If you find this difficult, try blocking the sales dashboard with a chrome extension like Block Site.

Be Nice And Go Easy On Yourself

When you do check these data sources each week, if the progress or pace is not what you desired – that’s okay.

Remember – It’s just an experiment!

You have the power to change the inputs. Overtime you’ll become a better scientist and learn what combination of daily actions will generate the outputs you desire in how you’re thinking, feeling and performing each day.

​Just stick with it, and lean on the inspiring words of Michael Hyatt:

“Consistency is better than perfection. We can all be consistent, but no one can ever be perfect.”

So there you have it.

A step-by-step approach to help you disconnect from uncontrollable outcomes at work and build a healthy work identity in sales.

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About The Author

mental health advocate Jeff Riseley

Jeff Riseley is currently the Founder of the Sales Health Alliance and Mental Health Advocate. With over a decade of sales experience – Jeff understands the importance of Mental Health in achieving peak sales performance.

Jeff combines his sales and Mental Health expertise to improve sales performance through mental health best practices. His strategies have helped sales teams become more motivated, resilient and better equipped to tackle stressful events within sales.

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