The Mighty Logo

Discovering Joy in Your Work Life as a Chronic Warrior Worker

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

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?

You can join my free community on Facebook at the link in my profile. Just click on my name.

Stay classy, warrior workers!

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

Getty Image by StockRocket

Originally published: February 9, 2018
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home