THRIVE: Realign and reinvent after critical illness

Businesswoman drawing goldfish

Realign: Check into what matters

After experiencing a life-changing and traumatic event such as cancer or other critical illness, some of what used to take up our thought space might seem to matter less and other aspects of our lives and desires become more important.

For many of us, high performance or reaching a certain financial status have been key priorities. While these goals and all our remarkable achievements have played a vital role and we have worked hard to get to where we are, ultimately work is unstable. This part of life can change in an instant, as most of us experience at some point.

Something that we all can access that tends to be fairly reliable is our inner wisdom or intuition. Tapping into this personal resource can serve as a guide on our path to discovering what is meaningful, what feels most authentic for ourselves.

Changes and clarity don’t typically happen spontaneously, however, even with critical illness as a mobilizer. We must work at creating the kind of life that brings true contentment and we often need to clear room within ourselves to access what matters. And maybe this looks a little different now after critical illness, as does how we get there.

Reinvent: Meaningful discovery

With a little soul searching along with savvy resource sleuthing, you can access a range of tools to support your work-self reinvention. Your extensive skillset that you have already developed along with an openness to learn more about yourself will serve you well as you embark on your explorative journey.

Try the following reflection exercise and if barriers prevent you from fully “blue-sky’ing”, gently acknowledge that blockages are natural and let the obstacles dissolve – even if only temporarily.

When we allow ourselves to future think (which can be difficult to do after experiencing a life-threatening disease) and abandon any mental barriers that tell us “NO”, what comes to mind?

  1. What would you most like to be doing – how does a (work) day look?
  2. What activities are most draining for you and when?
  3. What comes to mind when you imagine a well-integrated life – work, self-care, family, friends?
  4. Are you interested in learning new skills in order to explore other interests? (returning to school can be an exciting option and there is more support to do so now for “seasoned” adults!)
  5. What is something small that you can do to start exploring new directions that feel right for you now?

Keeping a journal is most helpful to track what comes up over a period of time which can assist with decision-making as you courageously embrace your reinvention. Accessing support to assist with next steps could also be something to consider.

How we feel within ourselves in the day-to-day significantly matters after experiencing critical illness. If you need to make changes in order to feel healthier, happier, and more content, pay attention to the messaging – especially if something keeps reoccurring.

Incidentally, the colleague I mentioned in the previous blog did not return to her previous employment or even her high stress career. She is returning to school to study social work with the intention to use her personal experience with cancer (which includes volunteer work within the cancer care community) along with her new social sector competencies to help other people living with cancer rebuild their lives. She has a particular interest in providing vocational exploration support. And all of this at the exciting age of 49!

You’ve managed through many challenges as you navigated your critical illness experience and feeling overwhelmed is part of the reality. Going back to what is familiar can be easier and that could be the right choice for you. However, if you want to ignite change that aligns with a new desired direction, this brave new adventure can enrich your life as you nurture what is meaningful for you now and open yourself to expansive possibility.

How emotional intelligence contributes to thriving through times of realignment and reinvention

The THRIVE Plan coaching program is based on the five realms of emotional intelligence to support employees returning to work during or after treatment for critical illness. The program provides employees with tools and enhanced skills to effectively manage requirements and emotional stages and make the return-to-work experience positive, productive, and rewarding.

If you would like to find out if the THRIVE program is right for you or someone you know, we are happy to talk to you about how we can offer support for a positive return-to-work experience and/or exploration of a new direction.

For more information, visit the THRIVE webpagecontact Patricia Muir at, or call 416-804-4383. Connect and follow us on LinkedInMaestro’s FacebookTwitter