5 tips I learned from managing businesses that have helped me with chronic illness.
Living with chronic illness is difficult, but my experiences as a manager have given me essential skills that help me live with multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, sarcoidosis and asthma.
Living with chronic illness is lonely. The symptoms that you have, and the future that you will live, are all yours. You will feel like Sisyphus, condemned to an eternity of rolling a stone up a hill, just to see it roll back down again. When you feel like you have learned how to live with one symptom, suddenly another one crops up, and you have to start all over again. It is like torture. Cruel, and lonely.
After years of involvement with managing businesses of one type or another, I have learned some fantastic lessons that help me every day in managing my chronic illnesses of multiple sclerosis, chronic headaches, sarcoidosis and asthma. Having a set of guidelines that help with my conditions has made my journey much more comfortable for me psychologically.
The five lessons are:
1. Assemble Your Team
Every manager should know that they do not have expertise in every subject. As a result, a successful manager assembles a group of people around them that have the skills and knowledge that they do not possess. When you select the candidates for your inner counsel, you should choose based on the talents/ abilities that you lack. One major factor is that those who are part of this circle should be capable of holding an opinion that is contrary to your own. By doing this, you will ensure that the decisions that you make are optimum.
2. Know your limits
It is very tempting to think that you have all the skills you need to manage your life. The reality is that we all have limits. They can be intellectual, emotional, physical, mental or even financial constraints that we need to admit that exist in who we are. Taking the time to look at yourself, objectively, and expose these to yourself will help to inform who should be part of your team. I find this very helpful, and accepting that the knowledge I have about my illness is limited, and the psychological impact of it on my life, opened me to see a psychologist. Now that I have someone that I talk to every few months, and who has given me tools (such as meditation and journaling) to work with, my mental and emotional state is stronger.
3. Use the tools
There are many tools available to people with chronic illnesses, and these can be both positive and negative, especially in the area of chronic pain. A skilled manager will always assess the costs and benefits of introducing a new tool into the business. It could be a new software program, a better machine, or a method of operation that is the new way of doing an existing task. The key is to look not only at the short-term implications but the long-term consequences too. Especially when it involves your health, sometimes the quick fix now, can have much more significant, and adverse, impact in the distant future. Even using a stick can alter the way you walk and could impact your back, neck, etc. You must ensure that the tool you are using is the best for the task. The correct course will make your life easier, and allow you to focus on something else that may be more important.
4. Make a decision
Fear of making a decision often paralyses us. Indecision ends up having consequences mentally and physically which can have far-reaching implications for our ongoing health. Managers make decisions, and it is considered to be their primary role. Learning to assess all the facts, and on balance, to pick a route to follow. Finding this path, promptly, ensures that the business achieves its goal, which is making a profit. In the case of your health, it often is more comfortable to avoid the problem, hoping that will correct itself in time. This indecision could exacerbate the medical issue that you are trying to ignore. Use your team, discuss, and decide.
5. Move on
Even with all these safeguards, and tools, bad decisions are a fact of life. There will always be external factors that you didn’t know of or could not control. It is so easy to become consumed by a decision that in hindsight was wrong. Great managers learn from the error and then move on to the next thing. Dwelling on what you should have known will never change the outcome. It has happened, the consequence is real, and now you have the opportunity to start the next thing. Living in the past will put you in a place that you have lost complete control. Denying yourself the ability to live in the present moment can lead to depression and stagnation. This decision is an active choice, and I have learned that it is always best to brush the dust of past mistakes from your clothes and face the future clean, ready to fight again.
Tough Battles Ahead
Chronic illness is a series of battles, some you will win and others you will lose. That is the reality. If you can implement these five tips, the balance will be in favour of successes. I find that these help me mentally. Finding balance in my life and focusing on now, and my accomplishments allow me the space for joy, gratitude and happiness.
Have you learned anything from your work life that has helped you with your chronic illness? Please let me know in the comments below.