When I came upon A Course in Miracles (ACIM), which is a Jesus channeling, I found it difficult to read, but it sounded like truth. I slowly chewed my way through the textbook of ACIM, and thought, ‘Sounds like this is somewhat more substantial than the Law of Attraction stuff. But unfortunately, it can only be applied if you are really angry with someone.’
Well, I wasn’t angry with anyone – not at that time.
Boooom! (Imagine fireworks and a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat)
“Here you are,” said the universe, and gave me something to be angry about – a big ‘forgiveness opportunity’ (as they call it in ACIM terms) so that I could practice the application of the book-knowledge (- yeah, I know, be careful what you wish for).
Let me share some background information about this.
Passionate about work
In my job, I was involved in a work process which required me to deal with errors in a last-minute fashion. Just before a deadline, there were always too many errors and too little time to have them corrected by other departments.
One day in 2004, I was so fed up with this high workload and the resulting stress, that I thought, ‘There must be an easier way. Why can’t these errors be found and prevented much earlier in the process?’
And so, I set out to develop a pilot tool which did exactly that: find the errors earlier in the process and lessen the workload at the end.
I poured all my heart and mind into this tool. I loved the creative and meditative aspect of the computer programming that was involved. A calm mind and deeply focused thinking about how to tackle an issue, the process of having a question and then getting the answer using intuition. The sense of satisfaction, when I could see that my little invention actually worked. How delicious! That was my preferred mode of operation since school and put me into a state of flow.
Then the management of our team realized that this new tool was a good thing. And they wanted to set up some projects in order to spread its usage.
Even though I had had the idea for this new tool and had developed a pilot implementation, I did not apply for the position of the project lead for these new projects. I rather worked on it as a project team member because that would allow me to focus on the development of the coding rather than the coordination and communication tasks.
It was deeply satisfying to me that the new tool could help many people to lower their workload and stress. I was proud of my ‘baby’, passionate about my work, and felt very engaged.
But besides the passion I felt about it, would my work be recognized and appreciated by the management eventually? This thought did not really take center stage for several years. But somewhere in the back of my mind, I always hoped, ‘Eventually, I will get a promotion for it someday. There are not only the management and the project lead career paths, but there is also a functional career path in our company. And this is the one I would like to choose. I am sure this will be properly appreciated at some time.’
But in July 2009, a short conversation shifted everything.
“Why are you leaving?” I asked a colleague who was about to change to another department.
He told me that he had heard from the higher management that a functional career path didn’t really exist in our department. And he was dissatisfied that good tool development was only rewarded with a pat on the back, but one wouldn’t get promoted for it. The rules were certainly different in the rest of the company, but in our department, only project leads of large and visible projects would get promoted.
In our department, the functional career path existed only on paper, but not in reality?!
I couldn’t believe it.
Later, I asked my boss about the issue. He told me that he could not give me a promotion because I did not have the role of the project lead. He also said that, contrary to the rumors I had been told, the functional career path did exist. In theory at least. But one needed to show the same qualifications as a project manager regarding areas such as communication skills, organizing skills, and visibility, for example. And that it would just take considerably longer to show these qualifications if one did not have the role of a project lead.
So, hairsplitting aside, it basically meant that I would have to lead projects in order to get a promotion. Invention of new processes and tools for improved quality and efficiency was allowed, but not rewarded.
I still couldn’t believe it.
In my frustration, I talked to another colleague about it. He said, “Considering what type of work you like (i.e. design and development of coding), I would suggest that you give up the wish for a promotion entirely.” That was extremely blunt and also correct. Of course, it was not what I wanted to hear.
So, I had just found out that my contribution at work would never be appreciated the way I expected.
Big disappointment. Big disillusionment.
After all, I was so used to getting a lot of praise for my work since school. Excellent work was rewarded with good grades and prestigious scholarships. That was a huge part of my self-image. Now, this self-definition of me was threatened.
I was disappointed, felt treated unfairly, and became angry.
I was upset about three things. First, because the functional career path was not treated equal to a project management career path. And second, because this was disguised and not openly communicated. And third, because my self-definition as a high-achiever was threatened which not only made me angry but also sad and ashamed.
At work, I had to make the choice between doing what was appreciated (project lead) and doing what I like (design and development of coding) – and I chose to do what I like. That means, despite the disappointment, I still did further development and maintenance for my tool. But I couldn’t help thinking about this situation all the time, especially when my mind was not occupied otherwise.
Ironically, I was able to work calmly when in the office. But when I did not work and when my mind was unoccupied, feelings of resentment crept in.
The work which had once been fun and fulfilling suddenly wasn’t so much fun anymore. After all, I felt treated unfairly. Of course, I saw that the anger was not healthy for me. But somehow I found it very hard to ignore that part of me that was angry and wanted to set boundaries.
Again, like during the time when I could not dance anymore due to the rheumatoid arthritis, I thought, ‘How can I ever be happy again?’ I had derived so much joy from my work. But now, knowing that it would never be appreciated the way I expected it, I felt I could not continue with this work. Otherwise, I would feel exploited.
In addition to the anger, I often wondered what had gone wrong. I had followed my joy and intuitive urges and had done something which was a beneficial contribution at work for me and my colleagues. In previous times in my life when I had followed my joy and intuition and then had taken action with intensity and dedication, things used to work out well. I wondered why it was different this time.
Here we go! After three years of merely reading spiritual books, I finally got some real work to do in order to regain my inner balance.
About five times each day, the inner thought stream would play, ‘How unfair! My work is not appreciated. The company doesn’t deserve my engagement. If I continue with the same level of dedication, it will result in burn-out.’ On and on, for hours each day.
I had to find my inner peace again. But how?
This post is part of a series about my spiritual journey (table of contents).