Your Work: The Often-Overlooked Path to Healing
September 3, 2012
By Guest Blogger
When we’re not well, we first think about healing by way of modern medicine. For some, that works. Others turn to alternative therapies: nutrition, meditation, or yoga. For some, another path is required, one often overlooked and easily discounted.
For me, my healing path has not been paved by green juice and acupuncture needles (though both have helped). My healing path has been paved by my work. Following the wrong path made me sicker, but once I started in the right direction I began to heal.
Where it all began
My life hit rock bottom halfway through an undergraduate engineering degree. I was miserable in every way possible. I didn’t like my life, and I certainly didn’t like engineering. However, I had no idea what else to study or what to do, so I persisted with sheer determination and brute force, hoping to get through college as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately, an engineering degree leads to an engineering job, which I promptly began after college.
I jumped into my job and was pretty good at it. I enjoyed most of the people I worked with. I was good at my work. I had a flexible schedule and even practiced yoga during lunch. I wasn’t feeling quite as miserable as I did in college, but I can’t say I was full of joy, either.
Despite my early career success, my health was deteriorating. I had mysterious stomach pains that landed me in the ER far too many times. I got seasonal allergies, something I had never had before. I was riddled with intense physical pain for which doctors had no explanation.
With no answers in sight, I began to look inward. Deep down I saw that I needed to question my work.
When I imagined how I would feel if I retired from this company, all I noticed was deep regret and intense sadness. It was clear that I needed to make a change.
I began searching for my right work.
Simply directing my attention toward finding a new line of work initiated some healing. Though small and subtle, things were shifting.
When I finally left my corporate job to start my own business, my allergies began to clear. My stomach aches were gone. My body pain was reduced.
Today, my body and my health tell me whether I’m on track in my business. With each new client I take on or class I offer, my body reminds me if I’m moving in the right direction or the wrong one.
When I have a stomach ache threaten to return or when I find myself sneezing in the spring, I check in and see where I have taken a wrong turn on my path.
My health tells me if I’m working too much, worrying too much, or trying too hard in my business. I’m grateful for its wisdom, as it has become my divining rod for wellness and success.
How to know if your work is compromising your health
If you have an inkling that your work may be your divining rod for healing but aren’t sure what change needs to happen, start by asking yourself these questions:
Do I enjoy my work?
Do I look forward to work when I wake up in the morning?
Do I enjoy my work environment?
Do I enjoy the people I work with?
Does my work support the life I want?
Does my work align with my personal values?
Am I able to express myself, creatively and authentically, through my work?
If you’re truly honest with yourself, what do you notice? Are you on track, or do you need a change?
How to make a change
If you’re ready for a change but aren’t sure what steps to take, here is your roadmap. For some, an entire career overhaul may be in order. For others, small tweaks will set you on the right course.
1. Acknowledge you need a change.
If you believe that your work is a part of your journey to wellness, start by recognizing that in order to heal, you must make a change. Simply acknowledging this will begin to point you in the right direction.
2. Determine what isn’t working.
Consider the questions above to begin to figure out what isn’t working.
You may find that your work environment is toxic or that your boss is a jerk. Maybe you love your work, and you’re the boss, but you find yourself working until 3 a.m. every day, leaving your exhausted and creatively drained. Each person’s problem areas will be different. Investigate yours. What exactly about your work isn’t working for you?
3. Make shift, one at a time.
I didn’t jump from my corporate career into self-employment overnight. I started by changing jobs and changing bosses. Things got a little better. Next, I cut down on my work hours, and things improved a little more. Slowly I saw that I couldn’t change enough things about my job to make it work for my healing. I needed to make a bigger leap. By then, I was ready for it as I saw that it was essential to my healing.
You won’t always know exactly what your healing path will look like, so start by making one small shift at a time. Your health and your body will tell you if you’ve made the right move as well as what move to make next.
4. Keep at it.
Small shift by small shift, you will navigate your healing through your work. If you’re like me, this will be a life-long journey of shifting, healing, and repeating. You, too, can restore your health by finding and following your right work.
My healing journey is paved by my work. I know many others whose healing was paved by their work as well. Is yours? Please share your stories below. I’d love to hear what you’ve learned on your journey.
Jenny Shih is a coach and consultant for creative entrepreneurs. She helps new entrepreneurs get started online and helps experienced entrepreneurs systemize and streamline their businesses so they don’t have to work so hard. If you’re changing the world, Jenny’s here to help.
Photo credit: Emily Balsley