Blooming where you are planted
Our Admin officer, Ana Toledo, shares her thoughts on bringing passions into workplaces.

Growing up, I always felt like there was a certain pressure hanging over my head to develop my interests into a career. I guess that ideal has been engrained into many of us since childhood. Think about it. When a kid shows a special interest in the night sky, the reaction is commonly: “Oh, they are going to be an astronaut when they grow up”. When they pick up tools to play with: “That’s an engineer in the making right there”. Playing with food?: “Preparing to be a chef!”. Naturally, as they get older, subjects that teens show affinity to in school are encouraged to be their new career direction. These, of course, are largely harmless comments, not aimed at pressuring kids and teens to make a commitment for life. But for people like me, they certainly helped to foster a bit of an identity crisis. Establishing a strong mental link between passion and career choices can lead to disappointment, because it is often an unrealistic idea in today’s world.

To exemplify, I’ve always been really passionate about environmental and climate-related issues. When it came to choosing a career direction, I was faced with two opposing forces: my wish to make my passion into a career, and the reality of knowing how oversaturated this area of study is. As an immigrant, I had to stick with the safe option and went to a completely different field of study, Psychological Science. In psychology, we have this concept called “Cognitive Dissonance”. It means that our values need to be aligned with our actions, otherwise we’re in for a headache (i.e. internal discomfort that most people have to subconsciously work very hard to ignore). After finishing my degree, I switched gears once again and decided to go into administrative work. I had to make peace with my decision to go into a different career, however, I couldn’t get rid of this dissonant feeling that my actions (career-wise) were not aligning with my values. Through my psychology background thought, I knew that the only way to solve Cognitive Dissonance would be to get to the bottom of it and do something about it.

While pondering how to address this dissonance, I realised that I was not willing to change my values, so I had to change the things I could control. I started working at JDP in February, and before the end of the month, I had started to plan and implement a bottle recycling scheme, where I would collect bottles from around the office and take them to the recycling centre, with the money generated being donated to an environmental cause. In fact, to this date, the JDP office has sent over 800 bottles to recycling! This gave me a big push and was an enlightening experience, showing that I could apply my passions in my surroundings whatever my career was. After that, I started to bleed my passions into my work at JDP in various ways. Implementing more waste-cutting initiatives, helping to organise a company volunteering day at a food waste charity, planning a recycling program, among others. This filled me with an immense sense of purpose, and upon reflecting on, I think of the quote “bloom where you are planted”. Often we blame and resent our circumstances, instead of making the best out of our situations, playing with the cards we were dealt. 

Since coming to this realisation, it opened my eyes to a lot of other ways people can shape their workplaces with their passions and interests. A recent example in JDP, is that because of Kierstin, our office American, we ended up having a Thanksgiving lunch with the crew. It may seem like an inconsequential matter, but these are the small actions that cultivate a healthy workplace culture. This happens frequently in our workplace, with people constantly sharing their interests for working out, food, sports, music, and plenty of other things, bringing us closer and making the workplace more enjoyable for all. 

Nonetheless, I must say that for this to happen, it is essential for the workplace to facilitate it, and I am lucky that JDP has supported my passion projects since day one. It is a healthy exchange: our interests are facilitated and in turn they contribute to the organisation’s culture. It can bring everyone closer together, supporting each other’s passions, cultivating appreciation and companionship, as well as strengthening bonds. From my organisational psychology background, I know that all of those things can lead to increased workplace satisfaction and productivity, so it is doubtlessly mutually beneficial. 

Overall, we do not need to buy into the idea that you can only be happy and fulfilled if you are working at a job directly related to your passion. As long as we have organisations that support individuals and their interests, people can find fulfilment anywhere they go, we just need to bloom where we are planted, and see the good that comes from it!