“Robert, how many times have you told me you just don’t enjoy that type of work?” my wife asked with an understandable degree of frustration. This conversation was a familiar one. I had shared with her that I was considering taking on a consulting opportunity that paid well but wasn’t the type of work I enjoyed. My wife’s question stayed with me as we drove towards a spontaneous getaway weekend.
Hearing the truth come out of someone else’s mouth made all the difference in the world. It woke me up to an even greater truth: I have an addiction to security. This realization struck me as odd since it was the opposite of my self-concept. I consider myself as having an entrepreneurial mindset with strong evidence to support that idea:
As a stockbroker, I created my own book of business by cold calling 300 strangers a day to see if they’d hire me. For the past twenty years as a nonprofit fundraiser, I’ve used my business development skills to help organizations create fundraising campaigns from the ground up. I even started and ran my own nonprofit. I was able to do so as my commitment to helping local underserved youth pushed away my fear of not having a regular income.
Yet, even with over thirty years of successfully creating organizations and clients, I recognized the undercurrent of my addiction to security.
I changed jobs when I felt one of my employers wasn’t on sound financial footing. I left roles I was happy in if another paid even slightly more. I sought out new employers if I felt the company didn’t fully value my contributions. While it’s true that I love and enjoy variety, in hindsight, it wasn’t just variety I was seeking with those changes.
Now, here I was, two years into having my own coaching and consulting practice, thinking I was past all this. Yet, I was still addicted to security.
I understand if some take issue with me describing the above behavior as addiction. The term is usually connected with substance abuse. However, addictions are generally defined as the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing, or activity. My activity was my thinking about security. My habit was responding to my addiction with reactionary behavior.
In reality, there is no such thing as security. It’s a thought-created construct much like happiness or sadness. You can’t buy it, touch it or own it. It lives in your thoughts or it doesn’t. But my security thought is much more persistent than other thoughts I have.
My security thought visits me often; it shows up daily and sometimes even hourly. It comes to me with a clear voice with fully verbalized ideas (you’ll be homeless and worthless). It comes with rich details (if only your bank account had XYZ dollars, you could….). And it hangs around much longer than most. Worst of all, it often becomes my truth and I argue for it forcefully, often against my own better instincts and inner wisdom.
I could say this insight was an epiphany that occurred out of nowhere but that wouldn’t be true. The day after my wife posed that question, I was reading Dr. Amy Johnson’s Little Book of Big Change which focuses on addictions and habits. I had started the book as part of our reading for the coaching program I participate in led by Melissa Ford. I had been very resistant to reading it thinking, What could I possibly get out of this book? I’m not an addict. I don’t have habits to break.
Yet, here I was on a lovely weekend away, with time to read. And by chance, I had grabbed this book thinking maybe it’s time to give it another try. It was time. My reading helped me realize I’m a Security Addict.
I would have loved to wrap this post up in a neat little bow, with logical conclusions and some sound and valuable takeaways. I would have added a pithy title that was more compelling like How I Conquered my Addiction to Security. Or My Life Changed Because of this Insight — Yours Can Too! I would have at least offered you My Three Key Takeaways from the article. Sorry. I can’t do that. Not yet anyway.
What I can say is that I am now aware that my security thought is just that. It’s a thought that in the past rarely served me. It’s a thought that in the future, I’ll recognize for what it is, and hopefully, I’ll let it hang out for a while or leave. But, in the end, it’s just my security thought.
Robert Grabel is the President of Nonprofit Now! You can find his posts here and at www.robertgrabel.com
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