I’ve noticed something odd and I wonder what it’s about. People who live with chronic health conditions, too often make important career decisions without first questioning their assumptions. Of course , “healthy people” fall into this trap, too. But let’s face it. If you’re living with debilitating chronic health, you have less wiggle room for poor career choices.
When “A” told me that she wanted to leave her job, a job that had been her career goal since starting college 15 years ago, I understood . The demands on her time and energy to deliver more and the increasing number of tasks that she didn’t like doing, left her wiped out and barely able to move at the end of the day. Aggravating this, her symptoms had been visibly flaring, making tasks more difficult and symptoms harder to hide from her team.
But when she announced that she had decided to leave her job to start her own business so she could have the flexibility she needed to get healthier, I was confused.
Recently “A” had what I think of as an “ah hah’ moment. Filling out a “Wheel of Life ” ( a simple but eye opening tool in my Keep Working With Chronic Illness Workbook) , she was shocked by how out of balance her life seemed. A recent divorce, few personal relationships and no outside interests created a very bumpy, uneven wheel. Reflecting on this, she had attributed this to her single-minded focus since high school on academic achievement and building her career. Typically this is a strong motivator to create change before getting into the Workbook self assessments.
But somehow, she had moved quickly from deep job frustration, to wanting more balance in her life and then to deciding to start her own business so she could be her own boss and become more flexible with her time and her approach to work – - and that would allow her to get herself healthy. Huh?
Tue there are diseases in which symptoms can be better managed through behavior change (e.g., Type 1 Diabetes, some types of heart diseases, certain pain syndromes, etc). But even those people living with such diseases (and she doesn’t) who do all the right things can find that symptoms worsen because there are elements beyond their control.
We can take charge, to the best of our capacity, of our thoughts, actions and responses to what happens. And that’s no small feat. In fact, I think it’s a major accomplishment.
So why not focus your energy first on you, where you have the best chances of success? Finding a less demanding boss might be a short term solution but it’s also likely that you’ll run smack into other demands on your time. Start your own business can sound like it gives you control. But it’s also likely that you’ll have an even more demanding and unrealistic boss. Only this time it’s you. You can bring anxiety, stress and worry to your job wherever it is. You can find ways to avoid taking care of yourself whatever you do.
Bottom line? Before making significant changes, stop. Give yourself a gift. Question your assumptions. Then go to work.