Discovering Joy in Your Work Life as a Chronic Warrior Worker


It can feel like everything in your life changes when you suddenly have to deal with long-term illness. Some days you can’t believe how much it has changed you, the way you think, your priorities, your daily life and especially your work life. It can feel like suddenly your calling, your career, maybe the only thing you ever imagined doing with your life is over and you have no idea where to go from there.

The thing we often forget in all of this is that our feelings of what we want from life are often unchanged, despite what we’ve been through. Sure, many things might become less or more important but if they do, chances are deep down you already knew they should be more or less important, more or less of a priority and your new circumstances have just thrown that into perspective.

Who you are at your core has probably been there all along, even as a child. Even though we might have lost touch with it. Things that are a clue to who we are at our core are:

  • Our natural personality and behavior. The way we are with people or in the situations in which we feel most comfortable.
  • As a child, what gave you most joy and freedom.
  • The way other people see us, especially those closest like family and old friends, the people who have known you all your life.
  • The way we act, the things we do or enjoy when no one else is watching.
  • How we react, especially when we react in a strong way, to other people or situations. You might hear a lot about being “triggered,” the idea that we get angry because someone has what we want, so we tell ourselves that we don’t like what they do or how they act but we are secretly jealous and wishing we could do that, be that way, look that way. Ever felt that way? Or maybe you are so passionate about something that seeing the opposite gets you really wound up. The things that you are passionate about – whether because you are triggered or just that you don’t like it – are clues to who you are at your core.

Clues can be small things, maybe that you have forgotten. An example for me was as a child I was obsessed with tigers. The trade in tiger parts and killing of tigers really impacted me. I had sponsored tigers and I would write regularly to embassies and governments asking to stop the tiger trade. My role as protector was there at my core from an early age. Passion and taking action on my passions were also key.

You can find these clues to what makes you “you” in so many places and you can start with the list above. But the most important point is this:

It’s not important that you can’t do the thing you want to do anymore (I know it feels important right now). What’s important is that you can find a way to feel the way you want to feel.

There may only be one career you feel you can do right now, but the reality is there are a million ways to feel how you want to feel. When we give ourselves permission to take a step back and explore how we want to feel and all the ways we can get to that feeling instead of focusing only on a “job,” then suddenly other ideas, possibilities, opportunities start to present themselves. The world literally opens up before us.

When my career ended due to ill health I struggled to imagine a life doing anything else because my whole self-worth was wrapped up in being amazing at that one thing. But when I explored what actually gave me joy I realized that my career (although I was very good at it) hadn’t been giving me joy for a long time anyway, that my ill health had forced me to face up to this and I needed to understand why.

What I discovered, when I forgot about skills and job titles and all that specific stuff, was that what gave me joy in my work-life could be distilled into these key takeaways:

  • I get no joy when I am only included in one part of a process because I like a varied workload and getting involved in different things, I love to see the end result of my efforts and I like to get involved right at the start to help people find the right solution, not just any old solution.
  • I do not do well with people telling me what to do (holding my hands up here, I’m a nightmare employee!) and I especially hate being told to do things in a specific way. I like autonomy, flexibility and freedom to find new and better ways of working.
  • I enjoy helping people take complicated stuff and make it simple.

See how many more opportunities and ideas can start to present themselves when we look at our work-life this way and focus on how we want to feel and what gives us joy?

If you’re not sure how to get started with this you can get access to some free tools for warrior workers in my free Facebook community The Sassy and Classy Professional.

Stay classy, warrior workers!

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Getty Image by StockRocket


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

painting by the author of a person walking into a lit area from a purple area

24 Things to Know If You've Just Been Diagnosed With ME/CFS

I posed the following questions to my online ME/CFS community: What do you wish you had known at the onset of your illness, that you know now?  What advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed with ME/CFS? Here are the answers from those who know the ropes best. 1. Rest, rest and rest! “When [...]
The writer laying in her bed, the image has a sketch effect on it.

The Shame of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

There is a phenomenon that happens when you’re chronically ill. It’s hard to give up and just go back to bed – three hours after you dragged your rear out of bed to begin with. Most people wouldn’t know that taking a “nap” is fraught with peril. Waking up from a couple of hours of [...]
woman with her arms open against the water at sunrise

Rising Strong After Illness Knocks You Down

I’ve borrowed the title of Brené Brown’s book for this blog because it resonates to the core of my being. Rising strong is not so much about physical power but about a strength that resides inside our heart. Many of us see ourselves as warriors, survivors, lion-hearted and courageous while others feel defeated, guilty, weak [...]
photo of woman with long hair and bangs, and two photos of her with a buzz cut

When You Have to Choose Between Your Hair and Your Health

I’ve always been blessed with strong, thick and healthy hair, which I’ve kept long for most of my life. My hair has always been the most striking and beautiful part about me. I used to get compliments daily and I used my hair as a form of safety blanket, which I could hide behind when [...]