During a “check-in” with a client about his coaching engagement, he told me things were going well after 3 months. He described changes and how this was helping.
But then he said that this wasn’t what he’d expected. “When we started, I assumed that within a few months, you’d do several career assessments, suggest a career path and give me a plan of action.”
Delighted to hear honest feedback, I didn’t share my surprise. We’d agreed on specific specific outcomes for the engagement based on his self-assessment and a conversation and I had written it in a memo to him. Nothing I’d said or written indicated that I’d suggest career paths and give him a plan.
His expectation — that someone else would figure out what he needs and how to get there — seems fairly typical of how most people choose a job or create a career path.
If this has been your approach, how is it going? Do you think you’re taking charge of your life?
By the time I turned 40 years old, I’d held 6 jobs in 3 different industries. I typically found jobs through the want ads. Once I developed multiple sclerosis, I changed jobs when I found my symptoms were getting in the way of high performance.
Over that 20 year period, I didn’t have a clue of what I liked to do or what I was good at. Even after developing a disabling disease, I didn’t have a good feel for what I could manage. I never had a plan nor any ideas about what influenced my success.
But my40th birthday was a “wake up” moment. Very sick with two autoimmune diseases, I realized that I had to approach work differently if I was going to be able to continue. Since that time, I’ve come to believe that living with illness and continuing to create a sense of success in your career relies on resilience.
For most of us, developing resilience can take time and effort. But the results make it worth it. When you live with chronic illness, resilience is the Foundation in developing a sustainable career path and a sustainable life.
I’ll describe what I call the building blocks for Resilience.
- Chronic illness means that frequent and unpredictable health changes. This impacts the way you can be in the world which influences how others respond to you. You might have been hired for your engaging wit or your bubbly personality. But at the end of the day, performance is what counts. And your capacity to adapt to changing events will make a remarkable difference in your reliability. This is one building block for resilience.
- Chronic illness takes up space in your life and it’s easy to resent it. You have a choice about how much space i takesand what you want that to look like. Ignoring symptoms can lead you to misjudge what you can do. You disappoint everyone – – and especially yourself. If you let illness define you, you can become paralyzed with fear, consumed with narcissistic pity or just plain boring. Living successfully with any of life’s challenges requires creating a space for that challenge to exist reasonably without letting it take over. Developing the capacity for living with illness is another building block in your Foundation.
- Finally, it’s too easy for any of us, healthy or not, to let things happen to us rather than create goals and set intentions for ourselves. But chronic illness creates obstacles that can throw you when you don’t know who you are. Developing a clear idea of what matters to you, what you like doing and what you can do is a critical building block in your Foundation.
Resilience relies on a strong and well-developed Foundation. It’s necessary to do this before you can figure out what you want to do with your work-life and how to best apply our talents and skills. With a solid Foundation, you don’t need someone else to tell you what you should do. You have the tools to figure it out for yourself and the capacity to live with whatever happens along the way.