It is a Sunday evening when I am recording this podcast. And I remember I used to dread Sunday evenings, I used to feel this heaviness in my chest. I wanted to distract myself with watching mindless TV or series (I guess there wasn't Netflix) but somehow I couldn't forget what was going to happen tomorrow. I needed to go to work. At that point in my life if you had told me "Isil, this is a good thing. Something good is coming on your way" I would probably strangle you. But now I know, that being unfulfilled at work, dreading the Sunday is a good sign. It is a wonderful gift. Because it's shaking you off. It's telling you something needs to change. And the bigger this heaviness becomes, the more inviting is the call for you to change something. I am very grateful to feeling that way. And as I see that it's quite difficult for the person who is in the dreading part, in the feeling totally unfulfilled part to see that something good is awaiting them, I decided to write about it and that's what I am writing in my book The Gift of Being Unfulfilled at Work.
The process of writing this book was interesting because I needed to remember how I was feeling back then, and how it actually changed me going through this journey, how was I changed. And while reflecting on it, I was seeing what I was missing. I was at the same time -being this new person, as I am right now- surprised to see all that was a very black and white thinking that I had. I actually could explore things from a different point of view. So that's what I want to talk with you about today.
When this feeling of "I don't like it in here and can't bear" comes to you, how it came to me, I had decided "Alright, it's not going to work and I'm going to do something else. This chapter is over and the new chapter will begin and I somehow will survive in this period of transition", which was quite difficult by the way, this fear of not knowing what is next but not wanting to be here was a complete feeling of powerlessness and being a victim.
Even though I didn't resign from my job, inside of myself, in my heart, I had resigned, and then I had this period of ghosting. At work I was going there physically, but emotionally I wasn't there. In my mind, I wasn't there. I didn't want to contribute anymore.
That's quite painful. It's painful because the potential that is not being used acts like an infection. It spreads in your body and in your mind. It's very depressing. It's very tiring. And it also carries with it a lot of guilt, because you are paid for the work, but you don't want to do it. You can push yourself to do it but innerly, you have already decided you will not be continuing to do it. You are in a sort of limbo, in a sort of inner conflict, which is quite challenging.
And what I noticed while reflecting on it for the book that there was another possibility. There was a possibility to having recognised what I didn't like about this work, I could actually do something to change my work inside the same company, inside my same position, to bring it towards a state where I would enjoy. I could create my work. I could move things around, I could talk with people, and I have never considered.
One of the biggest unfulfillment factors for me was the lack of meaning. I have been working in banks, and I realised when I was coming to the beginning of my 30s that what I do actually doesn't contribute to the world. What difference was it making? And decided that it was not making any contribution, and at the same time it was something negative because the bank's earned money on interest rates, and it meant that, either people had to have more debts or the interest rates should be more. In both cases, it is earning off people's wallets and it disadvantaged people . "Totally bad and I don't want to be a part of this anymore".
And while reflecting on this, writing on this, I had a flash, thinking, well, actually, banks are also the places which lend money to people. So, the people who have good ideas, or dreams, but don't yet have all the funds for it can go and borrow the money and make their dreams come true. That's also the place I was working, which I never, not one second, considered.
The thing is, I settled my camp on this side, this negative side of the spectrum, that it is not. And it was decided for me. And with this negativity, I carried the flag, all the time, until I could figure out what else I wanted to do next. If I could stay with this idea. "Okay. What I want is meaning. How can I create meaning in my work? What is meaningful?". Then from this place of negativity or having settled my camp, I could have opened up, again my perception, and look for possibilities and for creation.
And maybe if I carried this question forward, I could have had dialogues with people, I could have had dialogues with my colleagues, with other stakeholders in my bank, talking about what is our purpose, how can we more be aligned with our purpose. I could have led maybe a team or a small group in the company to talk about this purpose and make something good out of it. And maybe there were other people like me in the bank who were feeling the same way. By me stepping out of my silence and my negativity and turning it into a question, and bringing it to others might have helped them also to do something about it and also for the other people who have not yet arrived to that level of awareness, people who have not yet thought about the meaning of their work or it was not that important for them. But when it became a matter, we could have already been a bit farther and have worked on it which would help these people that are coming behind us also to have more fulfilment.
So, the problem that I experienced alone, which I had decided could not be solved, because I didn't consider other perceptions, other possibilities and I didn't go and create these, could have actually helped others. This even carrying the question, could have given me the meaning in my work.
I have a theory that this our singular problems could be our meaning in work, and also our singular problems if we stayed with the problem, and turn it into a question, and follow this question through with the intention to find an answer, and create an answer can bring us forward. And not only us, also the other people around us.
And I think that theory can be implementable to any aspect of unfulfillment. I don't know what other aspects were out there. Well I know my aspects which was: meaning was important to me, being with people was important to me and I was missing these, so we can talk about that but I went out and asked on my social media profiles, on LinkedIn and on Facebook about people's experiences,what made them unfulfilled. And I believe we can also take their examples and work, about how could that be different.
Most of the people who wrote to me told me that there wasn't any more learning and growth. It was a repetitive work that they were doing and they didn't like doing this anymore. They wanted to learn and grow.
Okay, so the main thing is, I want to learn and grow. What can I do to learn and grow? What are the possibilities for me to learn and grow?
Talking it out talking with the manager with other people might have already sparkled new ideas or might have made you feel not alone, and might have helped the organisation to recognise that you didn't have this experience, and you asserting it that you needed it and you're here telling them, show that you are trusting them could have helped organisation to grow and get better as well.
People talked about lack of - I call this, or in terminology, it's called hygienic- factors like fairness, like holidays, number of holiday days, the salary, the promotion... All these things, yes, can be problematic. If they don't exist, it's a problem. But still in this case, before you decide, before you say "Okay, it's not happening here", you could have carried the question forward and you can, if you are feeling unfulfilled right now, carry the question forward. First of all, turn the complaint.
Whatever you feel, it will feel like a complaint, because you don't like it, and you have all the right to complain, but the thing is complaining is not a creative energy and complaining will always make you want other people change things for you, or look for other places where this thing doesn't exist.
The alternative is really to turn it into a question. "Okay, I need fair pay. I need holidays, what is possible here? How can I make it happen? Who else might be feeling the same way? Who else can this help, and how can we, together, make it change so that it will benefit me and the others in this company, and maybe our company altogether?".
It's changing your singular mindset of all "this is a problem for me and I need to solve it" to the problem that points to an important area of improvement, and "let's look at it together", and you bringing it to conversation and carrying the conversation forward, not only will help you, but also will help others, and the company you are in.
I guess I am a spiritual person and I believe that we are choosing places we are in, and people we are with for a reason, and we help each other. It might feel like you might need help, because you are feeling a problem, but actually you expressing this problem and turning into a conversation might be the help the other side might need.
Maybe you are the teacher in this story, maybe your manager needs to hear what you have to say, maybe the company that you're working for the organisation your colleagues need to learn from you. And the reason you were there had a meaning. You were part of this community. And you can help this community to move forward. Because when you leave, you are letting go of the community that you were part of, and they lose the chance to learn from you, lose the chance to be challenged by or to be taught by you.
I believe we can resist to the urge of escaping from problems, resist the urge of thinking we are singular entities, and we need to solve things right now for ourselves, but think more "Okay, what does this tell me about how to make things better? And who else can this be also useful for? What is a question that this problem tells me to explore further? How can this question benefit us all, and how we can carry this question forward? ".
And when you change the mindset like that, you can already recognise more power that you have, more curiosity that you have, more meaning that you have.
This is what I wanted to share with you today. That has been my experience that I couldn't implement in my previous work. But now, whenever I feel a problem - It doesn't happen automatically. Of course I go to a reactive state and I want to complain and I want to tell the person they're wrong. but when I can come to a place of calmness - I can then ask myself, "Okay. So, what does it tell about what is important to me? How can I turn it into a question so that we can make things better? "
As a straight example, my biggest value is freedom. And when somebody teaches me something or tells me to do something in that way I get triggered, and I feel my freedom is threatened, and I want to shout at this person, or in other ways, I want to just close myself off.
But actually my freedom is important. And the person might not know that I get triggered, and they might not know that the way that they speak can have such an impact on me or another person, and me expressing this, me saying that "this is important to me, freedom is important to me, this is how I feel. And I see freedom as an important value to be considered. What do you think? How do you define freedom that will appeal to all of us?"
We can work towards it and the other person learns also from this process and you recognise yourself. And by this dialogue- because our minds are like a sacred space and when two minds or more minds are together, it creates a very strong closed space where the impact of ideas can be even more, it can host more energy and more ideas - we can get more inspiration.
So these problems create invitation to dialogue and to think together so that we create new states of being together that expands beyond our current problems, we make things better.
That's what I see as an opportunity for all of us to consider when we feel problems and when we want to escape, we can settle down, we can call ourselves we can see "What does it tell about what is important to me? How can I turn it into a question? What is possible for us to create more of this?" I can invite other people to this conversation so that we, together, learn from each other, and carry the question forward. And in the end we create such a space that goes beyond our problems, to a much better place to be for all of us, and through that conversation through that discussion, it makes it better for not only me but also other people who feel like me or who may feel like me in the future.
I think we can do that.
That's what I want to share with you today.
I wish you a wonderful week, and I'm hoping to talk to you in the next episode, Take care.