One of the feelings I really enjoy is being instrumental. I’d prefer to feel instrumental than successful, happy, or satisfied because I find it enjoyable to have some control over the outcome. Given a choice between being an instrumental failure or uselessly successful I could sleep better being a failure most nights.
Maybe this preference has roots going back to the grammar school experience of needing to take charge over failing group projects (something that surprisingly continued into college) or the high tolerance for losing I built up playing middle school sports. My team may have been really really bad at the sport, but at least I did the best I could running around chasing the sports ball. That said, I don’t necessarily have to physically produce or participate in an output to feel instrumental, nor do I have to be a gatekeeper; sometimes it’s as easy as electing to do nothing, delegate, or just offer advice. Doing nothing and being instrumental probably don’t go together too often, but I think there’s plenty of strategic overlap for people who work in a group / team setting.
There’s a well known phrase “you are not your job” which I disagree with pretty strongly. Setting that dispute aside, if you assume that I am partially defined by work it’s easy to understand that I would want a role in driving that definition, by extension defining myself. I don’t aspire to build a resume full of successfully doing what anyone else could have done or just doing what I’ve been told. Historically, I’ve been pretty good at avoiding those pitfalls and working on things where I’m providing and being recognized for some unique value but I’ve forgotten how easy it is to fall off this wagon as it rides off into the horizon.
Good night moon.