Socially conditioned

Last week I came across this beautiful video that a friend had put up on LinkedIn. The short video beautifully depicts how we are socially conditioned to behave in a particular way. This is particularly true of the jobs choices we make and the career trajectory that we chart for ourselves.


Our social conditioning begins very early. Youngsters become doctors or engineers because their parents wanted them to. It is like a herd mentality scenario. Because we are a family of doctors, so should you be. Because I could not do my engineering, I want you to fulfil my dream. Thankfully, the world has opened up different career options and diverse vocational skill opportunities. The millennial and the Gen Z are defining their own career paths.

However, it is difficult to shake off years and years of social conditioning. Our first instinct is to always go for ‘safe’ jobs. Jobs that provide us with a sense of security. Jobs that we know we can do and deliver upon. Jobs that have a ring of familiarity around them. This urge to be attracted towards ease and comfort is part of our social conditioning. It is as though are brains are in autopilot mode – it functions at a standard level and we are content with the same. Assess yourself in your current job and tick the areas wherein you have had the courage to do something different. Chances are, those ticked boxes are very less in number.

We have lots of ideas. Communications is all about giving shape and form to those ideas. Yet, when it comes to an idea related to charting a different career part, we often shy away. If there is anyone out there who kills your ideas, trust me, it is only you. 

How do we then go about chartering a different course? 

  • The present

The easiest way is to first look at your current job and the work that you are doing. Sift through the long list of tasks that you perform daily. Discard those that don’t make your heart beat. Reach out to cross functional colleagues and volunteer for collaborative tasks. Keep your KPIs aside for the moment. This is about your growth and you taking a decision to expand your skills. Remove the time to learn something new at your workplace and it need not necessarily be in the field of communications. If you do not get into something new, you will never know whether you had the nose for that new skill or not. Why not find out? Somewhere, it will all come handy. You just need to believe in yourself and have patience.

  • The future

Write down your dream job/role. Of course, you must have already done that umpteen times. Ask of yourself what you have done to reach there. If you have initiated actions, then congratulations. But how familiar is that journey for the dream role? Is it about climbing the same mountain higher or have you now chosen to now go for a trek? Real growth occurs when we dare to charter unfamiliar paths. Think of a new path that you can create. If you are in a corporate, think of making the switch to a startup! 

When I signed up with a startup as a communications consultant, I was very unsure of how this would work. I had spent most of my professional life in organisations that were process driven. Here I was then in a culture that was so different. To my surprise, I loved it! I loved the energy that agility bought in. Everyday the goals would shift; new strategies would get developed – the risk-taking ability of the startup amazed me. I had to rework on my communications goals all the time. This was not the usual annual strategy plan – all done and dusted. I had to demonstrate speed and innovative thinking. I had to stay close to the business strategies that were constantly evolving. Valuable lessons that have stayed with me even today.

Let me reiterate – it is not easy to change years of social conditioning. However, it can be done with due practice and dedication and the awareness to break free. Try it.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sarita Bahl
Country Group Head CSR at Bayer - South Asia
Sarita Bahl leads the Corporate Social Responsibility function for Bayer South Asia and is also the Director – Bayer Prayas Association. Prior to this, she successfully oversaw the communications and public affairs function for Bayer South Asia. Over her three decades of professional experience, Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, public sector, trade associations, MNCs and the Not-for-profit sector. An alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Science and the Swedish Institute of Management Program, Sarita specializes in stakeholder engagement, sustainability and communications. She is passionate about animals (is mother to a female cat), books and movies.

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