THRIVE: Make it count: Self-exploration of purpose and fulfillment after critical illness

Cropped shot of woman writing and holding coffee cup

According to recently released statistical information from the Canadian Cancer Society, approximately one in two Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetimes. 

According to the Health Status of Canadians Report tracking heart disease and stroke in Canada, 6% of Canadians 20 years and older report living with cardiovascular disease. 

With early detection, advances in treatment and access to supportive services, higher numbers of people affected by cancer are surpassing the five-year survival rate. More people who are being affected by cancer, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory disease are in the most productive years of their lives and their careers.

Even though we are seeing improvements in clinical care across the healthcare landscape, we know that it’s not just the medical aspects of critical illness that present challenges. Critical illness impacts every aspect of our lives and our work-selves are not excluded.

Experiencing critical illness can certainly drive the importance of living well and connecting to what feels true. Additionally, we often develop a welcomed ability to seeing clearly what has been dissatisfying. For some, the decision comes a little easier when thinking about what we want to return to if a career path no longer feels fulfilling or if a work environment is not conducive to maintaining optimal health and healing. For many of us however, we are faced with having to make difficult decisions in terms of direction. On top of everything we are managing, this process can be daunting.

When feeling overwhelmed, most of us tend to shut down and understandably so when we have gone through the trauma of managing life-threatening illness. But to live as wholly and completely as we are able, thinking about what will bring real fulfillment is worthwhile. The comforting news is that you have the answers!

Allow reflection to spark exploration


Trust Yourself - Easier said than done as most of us are hard-wired to question ourselves! Sometimes we can overcomplicate the process. To break it down, try this simple reflection exercise:

Over the next few days, in a relaxed state of mind, (lots of simple meditations via YouTube!) journal about the following:

  • What comes up when you think about returning to your previous employment or career path?
  • What are some of the aspects of your current work you enjoy?
  • What are some of the activities or situations you wish to let go?


If you took time off work for treatment and recovery, consider looking at some of the non-work related or stress-management activities you participated in:

  • Did you volunteer with a favourite community organization?
  • Did you take an online course?
  • Did you tap into the artist within?
  • Did you participate in mindful-based healing practices?

How did these activities make you feel? Can you see yourself exploring some of these activities in more depth?

This could be an opportunity to apply your visionary leadership to your own life’s direction. In other words, using an adaptive and dynamic approach will allow you to take a few risks. The process includes pivot points or reexamination when the fit is not quite right or doesn’t feel balanced.

Change the inner landscape

Getting cancer can become the beginning of living. The search for one's own being, the discovery of the life one needs to live, can be one of the strongest weapons against disease.”
- Lawrence LeShan, author of "Cancer as a Turning Point"

Even though you have experienced a challenging time as you managed through critical illness and most likely felt the impact of several barriers, try to become aware of when old thought patterns are becoming a barrier-maker. Opening yourself to possibility will organically extend your reach when considering new opportunities.

As you embark on your exploration, research the internet for a growing range of resources. As you navigate your discovery process, you may find self-exploration for realignment and reinvention more rewarding and effective by working with a qualified coach who has a compassionate understanding as well as focused expertise regarding the challenges of critical illness. 

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.