It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that things are difficult. — Seneca

Which words does your family use to express their love and appreciation for you? Mine was, “My intelligent girl.” This might sound crazy right now, but at the time these words influenced my subconscious and led me to develop a plain (or simple?) logic. That’s why I began to value more the professions that require intelligence. At this time, my reference to measure intelligence was the OSS, which is the university entrance exam in Turkey. A high score means I would have a good career and win my family’s approval.

Since my quantitative skills are strong, I leaned towards engineering. Electronic engineering seemed a Nirvana of intelligence for me. As a hardworking student, I successfully took the OSS and was accepted to the Electronic Engineering department at Istanbul University.

However, while I was attending school, I never felt, “Yeah, this is the kind of job I want!” However, the old paradigms in my mind about my choice of profession were too strong, and leaving school would mean a complete failure for me. What would my parents say, and what would my friends and acquaintances think? Moreover, what would I do after leaving school? I had no ambitions to do anything else. At least Electronic Engineering was a valid occupation and promised a high income. So I listened to my “logical mind” and finished my course.

 In my country, it is unfortunate that such a primitive technique as the OSS plays so important a role in career choices. This three-hour exam determines our fate. Then on the other hand we have the parents, who guide the occupational preferences of their children according to potential income rather than their abilities and interests. Therefore, most of us choose our professions based on our OSS score and the preferences of others. It isn’t a conscious choice.

How do we Choose Our Careers?

I see there are four groups of people:

  1. 1.Conscious profession builders, who naturally love their jobs
  2. 2.Subconscious profession builders who do their jobs fondly
  3. 3.Subconscious profession builders who dislike their jobs but keep on doing them out of desperation
  4. 4.Subconscious profession builders who dislike their jobs, so they go after jobs they can do fondly

As far as I observed, the majority of people are in the third group. Since I stayed there too long, I assumed through selective perception that everyone else was like me.

After graduating, I easily found a job working at the HP Support Center. A year later, I moved to a GSM operator as a planning engineer. After five years there, I moved to another GSM operator in Turkey, where I worked for another five years. Finally, I did what I couldn’t do when I was a student 15 years ago. I left my high paying job in October 2010.

How did I do it?

Naturally it wasn’t an easy decision. When your career occupies a huge part of your life, as it did with me, it is difficult to decide on it. In addition, if you lack any clear idea about what you want to do, your courage soon breaks down. Instead of pondering the issue, the most logical choice seemed to continue life in the third group.

Having my career taking up so much of my life made my decision difficult, but it also kept the subject constantly on my agenda. If I was married with children and my family life was dominant, perhaps I would not be able to make such a radical career change. My mind would be occupied with other things when I came home. On the other hand, if I was married and my husband worked, the financial issues could be easily resolved, making the decision easier. Who knows? Without living it myself, it’s impossible to know…

A summary of my typical day was like this. I would reluctantly wake up every morning and go to work. I would return home exhausted in the evening, lacking any enthusiasm to do anything. I watched TV and tried to escape myself. I wasn’t happy with my life, and I concluded the only reason could be my job. My plain logic said, “If I had more fun in my job, my life would be happier.”

In particular, disappointments in my career during the previous years fueled these thoughts further.

My only desire was to enjoy working, so I wouldn’t care if I was promoted or not. However, success is inevitable for people who enjoy their jobs. There is pleasure to achieving this success, but it’s not a compulsive effort.

So the question should be, “What do I enjoy doing the most?” But this is not an easy question to answer, since I have neither a natural talent nor any training outside of my current profession. I didn’t even have a consistent hobby. What could this job be where I can both enjoy doing it and make money?

Face Off

In the meantime, I read personal development books and attended some courses. I began to see how my thought patterns weren’t serving me anymore. I honestly confessed my weak and strong aspects to myself. I stopped blaming others for things that did not go well and decided to take full responsibility for my own life. I was the only one responsible for my failures. I put forward my mistakes objectively, but I took pains to not accuse and judge myself. On the contrary, I forgave all my angers and made peace with myself. I began to accept myself with all my merits and sins.

At the end of the day, I realized I never asked myself what I really wanted. I always made my decisions according to the criteria of others. For example, at the very beginning, when I was choosing my profession, my family’s approval and an occasional “wow!” from others was important to me. Later in my career, the main motivation to gain promotion was to strengthen my successful image in other people’s eyes and satisfy my ego. In reality, being promoted would not have improved my job satisfaction.

Seen from the outside, my life seemed very comfortable: a high income, good friends, and warm family relations. Why then was I not satisfied with this idyllic life?

The answer was very simple: I wasn’t at the “center” of my own life. When I look at the past, I can see all my decisions were based on the desire to be loved, approved, and appreciated by others. I had made a perfect dress for myself and was trying to fit into it. This dress was either too tight on one side or too loose on the other. Although it was inconceivable that this dress didn’t fit me, I wasn’t comfortable in it.

And Then it’s Time!

Finally, the idea of leaving my job slowly matured. If I wanted to put myself at the center of my life and live according to my own decisions, I needed to start immediately. Waiting does not change anything. On the contrary, it makes making decisions harder each passing day. Plus, how could I make a constructive decision about my life by continuing a life I didn’t like.

Finally, I decided to take a year off so I could learn how to listen to my inner voice. In that way I could understand what I really wanted and plan a new path for my life.

It took two years to convince myself to leave my job. I evaluated the risks, asked all the necessary questions, and gave answers. The main risk was how to survive financially for a year. Fortunately I was well prepared for it, because I could use the money I’d saved for buying a home.

I was certain about my decision, and there was not even the slightest doubt in me. Once I was convinced, everyone around me was also easily convinced and gave me support. If there was even a slightest doubt, I’m sure it would have found a voice to express itself.

To summarize, there is no right or wrong decision. There is only your own decision and that of others. If you direct your life according to others, you feel “regret” when things go wrong. But if you make your own decisions, even when things go wrong, you can call it “experience.”

 If you shape your life according to nature, you will never be poor; if according to people’s opinions, you will never be rich. — Seneca