Next time you sit and write your list of priorities, make sure you leave your job out of it!

“How’s life?” one of my mentors asked months ago, and my response was, “I haven’t been very happy at work lately.”

“Dear,” He said, “I asked how life was, not work! Life is not about work!”

Sometimes we get so consumed by our jobs that we forget we actually have lives to take care of. Your number one priority should be you — your well-being and your happiness. Your second priority is your family and friends — the people who somehow depend on you for parts of their happiness and well-being. Your career comes in the third place, but your job should not even exist on your list of priorities. We are not employees and our jobs do not define who we are. What defines us is our skill sets, attitudes, talents, thoughts, conduct, integrity, preferences, personalities, lifestyles and beliefs.

You should do your job well and with dedication, but do not turn it into your life. Be creative, innovative and responsible because this is what defines you everywhere you go no matter what your job is. It’s not about the job you were hired for, but how well you perform it.

Working in my hometown, Riyadh, taught me that all employees are replaceable, and thus jobs are somewhat meaningless. As negative and as harsh as it may sound, that is the inevitable truth. I eagerly hopped from one job to the other for different reasons — non-Saudi women working in Saudi Arabia can relate — and my excitement mounted with every new job I took. I always worked like I owned the company and was never distressed to leave a job because that signaled a new adventure and a new opportunity to shine at a different, cool company.

You cannot be defined by a variable, and your job is just that: a variable. Say you served as the branch manager of a major bank and you were laid off for some reason… does that make you a less valuable human being? Of course not! Can that take your talents and character away from you? Certainly not! Will your family abandon you for that? Hell, no!

Because we spend an average of 8 hours a day at work, we tend to turn it into a contributor to life satisfaction. Somehow it is, but not the job itself. The more we achieve at work, the more satisfied we are for sure, but that should apply to every aspect of our lives.

We seek friendships at the workplace, we try to have fun during work hours and we bring bits of our lifestyles with us to office. That is completely normal and healthy as long as you don’t take it very seriously. I moved to a country where I didn’t have many friends, and because I tend to uncontrollably turn into a workaholic, I needed to make friends at work… and for a while I thought I did. I woke up one day to realize I was the odd girl out because I performed well. We are at work to perform well after all, and if someone hated me for that, they should just do us all a favor and go to hell. Thus, I decided I should let them all eat their hearts out, spread outrageous rumors about me and try so hard to sabotage me. That kept them quite busy and actually helped me focus more on seeking work-life balance. I focused on sharpening my talents, learning new things and meeting new, more interesting people outside my workplace.

If your job were making you unhappy, leave it. Find a new one that will stimulate your creativity and bring out the best in you. Money is everywhere but happiness isn’t. And don’t tell me one should wake up in the morning and decide to be happy because that is one of the most cliché statements I’ve ever heard. It isn’t that easy or else we would’ve all been so high and ecstatic all day long! One cannot be happy in a toxic, hostile environment where one feels unappreciated and unsafe. Your happiness is your priority because, unless you are happy yourself, you cannot make anyone’s life any better.