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Cages or Wings

Posted 03/01/22

Cages or Wings?

My favourite way to experience a story is through the medium of music. I have a special place in my heart for musical theatre and I get inspiration whenever I get to witness this type of magic – on stage, on screen, blasting out of any speaker I can find and, of course, in my head. If you could get inside my brain, you’d find that my internal narration comes in the form of a musical – it’s all VERY dramatic and very loud in there!

Tick, Tick… Boom

My latest musical obsession is with Tick, Tick… Boom (currently on Netflix). It’s the musical starring Andrew Garfield as Jonathan Larson, the composer of the multiple award-winning musical Rent. It tells the story of his life before Rent, through the musicals he wrote as a struggling artist in 1990’s New York City. Directed by Lin Manuel Miranda (one of my personal hero’s), it is simply wonderful. I won’t spoil your experience telling you any more about the storyline, other than to recommend you check it out!

My current earworm is the finale song Louder Than Words (it’s going on the WorkJoy playlist I’m curating!), in which Larson asks us these questions…

Cages or wings? Which do you prefer? Ask the birds.

Fear or love, baby? Don’t say the answer…

Actions speak louder than words

You may be wondering what on earth this has to do with work? Well, it’s served up poetically perfect questions for us to consider when it comes to our working lives. Allow me to share a few thoughts with you…

Cages or Wings?

Daniel Pink (author of Drive) tells us that Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose are key factors to our motivation, and we also need these things to create and cultivate joy at work. When I think about wings, I think about freedom and possibilities. I envision being able to move and change, to learn and grow. To feel free to explore and experiment, to find the questions as well as the answers. When I think about cages, I think of a space where I cannot expand or change direction. It feels a little bit lonely. I can see the world, but only from my static viewpoint. It makes me feel limited, small and like my destiny is controlled by others, not myself.

Perhaps ask yourself these questions to see if you have the wings to wonder and wander or if you are feeling trapped in a work-based cage:

  • Am I able to spread my wings here – to learn, to grow, to change? Or have my wings been clipped – am I being discouraged from expanding myself?
  • Does my work allow me to fly towards the things that I’m good at (mastery)? Or am I doing work that doesn’t align to my strengths?
  • Am I supported to fly by my flock-mates and leaders? Or am I left free-falling without a safety net?
Fear or Love?

“Choose a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life” is a quote by Confucius often shared on social platforms with the narrative that loving what you do always equals easy. It’s not something I buy into. The work you love can still be hard work. Caring deeply about what you do can make it more challenging. Yet loving your work (or at least parts of it –  no job is perfect!), is essential for WorkJoy. When I think of love in the work context, I think of great working relationships that build us up. I consider connection with the work itself, the team, and the organisation. I think of that feeling of pride when you know you’ve done great work.  It makes me feel bold and brave and able to do the tough stuff. When I think of fear, it makes me think of stepping back, stepping out and hiding. Of not taking chances or seeking out something better. I doubt myself and lose trust in others. It makes me feel small and rudderless, like I’m drifting off course.

Consider asking yourself these questions to see if you are leading with the love in your working life or if you are being frozen by fear:

  • Am I flying towards the things I love – that fill me with joy? Or am I running away from the things that bring me gloom?
  • Does my work align to the things I care about – making me feel motivated to make things happen? Or am I left bereft of purpose and feeling uninspired?
  • Am I cared about personally as well as professionally – can I be the real me here? Or is it strictly business 100% of the time, with no room to be human?
Actions Speak Louder than Words

If you’re not able to feel the love or spread your wings right now, if you’re feeling stuck or unsure, it may be time to stop talking (or moaning!) about it and act. You always have choices. You can choose to spread your wings. You can choose to find the love. You may have to adapt or move to make it happen – you need to do something… and doing something always feels better than doing nothing. 

Remember, every time you choose not to take action, you’re actually choosing to stay in your cage…  

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