Inc. had a wonderful post, entitled 17 Ways to Be Happier at Work. While this list was written for the normal workers, I think many can be applied and more deeply discussed by those of us working with chronic illnesses. Here are just a few of Inc’s tips that spoke to me:
1. Don’t compare yourself to others. Everybody, and I mean everybody, starts out in a different place and is headed on their own journey. You have NO idea where someone else’s journey might lead them, so drawing comparisons is a complete waste of time.
Those of us with a chronic illness are different from the normal worker. We take more sick days, we may move slower, forget more, etc. Do not compare yourself to your colleague who works 12 hour days, or the colleague who travels 3 days a week. As long as you are getting your work done on time and/or on budget you don’t need to compare yourself. I can’t travel like the rest of my colleagues who can jet off to Detroit or Austin on an hour’s notice. But, I can make sure all the back end work at the office is complete and organized. As long as you are doing your job to the best of your abilities do not compare your work style to others.
2. Never obsess over things you cannot control. While it’s often important to know about other things–like the economy, the markets that you sell to, the actions that others might take, your focus should remain on what you actually control, which is 1) your own thoughts and 2) your own actions.
This one is huge for me. I can’t control what a client throws my way, or if an event I’ve planned goes awry in the field. But, I can control how I react when things go wrong. Lupus is aggravated by stress, so it is important not to stress about things I can’t control.
3. Know and keep your personal limits and boundaries. While your job might sometimes seem like the most important thing in your world, you’re killing a part of yourself if you let work situations push you into places that violate your privacy and your integrity.
While Inc. describes this tip in regards to workplace ethics, I think about it in regards to time. I’ve made a New Year’s resolution to keep work at work. If a situation is immediate, most colleagues will call; which means not checking my work email while away from work. I know this is hard in the world of Blackberries/ iPhones, where the lines between work and personal life have become blurred. But, in order to control my stress levels as discussed above, I must keep work and personal separate. Bonus: this means I can give my full attention to my loved ones or my health when I’m not at work.
4. Don’t over commit yourself or your team. It’s great to be enthusiastic and willing to go the “extra mile,” but making promises that you (or your team) can’t reasonably keep is simply a way to create failure and disappointment.
Again, back to managing the stress levels. You want to seem like to go-getter, the over-achiever. I know because I am that person, despite my limitations. But, when you only have so many spoons in a day it is best to avoid over-committing.
9. Make peace with your past lest it create your future. Focusing on past mistakes or wrongs inflicted on you is exactly like driving a car while looking in the rear view mirror. You’ll keep heading in the same direction until you collide with something solid.
I think of this tip in big picture terms. For years I had a dream of becoming a sideline reporter for ESPN. I worked toward that dream covering two BCS National Championships, MLB playoffs, the Little League World Series. But I couldn’t keep up. Lupus wouldn’t let me continue to run ragged, work a month without a day off, or carry a 40 lb. camera while running up and down a football field. Yes, I never made it to ESPN, but I lived my dream. I did the same job, if not more, than the other sideline reporters, and I got to cover some really cool sporting events. I can’t look back on my career change and be bitter that I didn’t make it to the top. I have to make peace with the fact that my new career allows for a lunch break, a chance to sit down, and the ability to turn work off. In the end that’s better for my health and psyche than completely fulfilling my dream.