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.




5 Responses to “Do you question your assumptions before making a change?”  

  1. 1 Christina Gombar

    Rosalind — this is good advice. There are no one-size-fits-all answers for people with a chronic illness. One thing to bear in mind — and this of course may be dependent on the type of employer you work for — is that when you work for a large organization, there is at least a skeletal support staff to deal with things like broken Xeroxes, fax machines, computer training. When I was freelancing on my own with an as-yet-undiagnosed and therefore untreated illness, technological things drove me up the wall. As did things like not being able to say no to a 10 p.m. Sunday night assignment due the next day. Asking for accommodations at a current employer is hard — they never seem to want to make them, or you may be afraid that they will be held against you — but no one should be intimidated out of at least asking.

  2. 2 Rosalind

    Good point, Christina. Unfortunately, too many are, intimidated, that is. For all the ‘wrong’ reasons, too.

  3. 3 Julie

    As someone who’s spent their life self-employed I’ll say that there is more flexibility BUT not when you are starting out. Starting out there is so much more stress and you have to work more hours than you’ll ever work at a normal job, and twice as hard to get it going to a point where you can have that kind of flexibility.

    On the other hand, I understand leaving a job that is taking too much out of you. I also understand if you don’t have a choice and you have to work, you can only do so much to focus on yourself. However, I agree that there are many poor assumptions aligned with working for yourself that too many people make.

  4. 4 Rosalind

    Thanks for sharing this, Julie.

  1. 1 Kevin Kerekes
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