Wake-Up Call: 5 Lessons From My Illness

Posted on July 15th, 2011 by Colin and is posted in Career, Midlife

                                                                  Wake-Up Call: 5 Lessons From My Illness                                

This is a guest post by Sital Ruparelia

“The universe is not short on wake-up calls. We’re just quick to hit the snooze button.”

- Brene Brown

6 years ago this week I had a big wake-up call.

Whilst on the verge of signing the biggest consulting deal of my career – I suddenly became ill.

I woke up after a Saturday afternoon nap with sharp abdominal pains. Within an hour I couldn’t walk. Within two hours I found myself in a hospital bed.

The pain was caused by a rare colonic condition called Epiploic Appendagitis.

Whilst not life threatening in any way, I was in excruciating pain and found myself on morphine for much of my 10 day stay in hospital. This was followed by several months of recuperation and, still today, I have some associated back pain resulting from the period.

But looking back, it was probably the wake-up call I needed. Whilst I lost the big consulting deal and the big pay check, it gave me the opportunity to learn some priceless lessons

1. I learned to put my oxygen mask on first

Whilst the doctors tell me that the illness had no specific cause and was simply a one-off thing – intuitively I now know that the trigger was stress. Work related stress.

Like so many people, I used to put the interests of clients, colleagues and the rest of the world ahead of my own. But not anymore. Just like the safety advice given on airplanes before take-off, I’m now far better at putting my own oxygen mask on first before trying to help others.

2. I learned to stop waiting for the ducks to line up in a row

During my hospital stay, I created a Bucket List of all those things I wanted to do “one day” with a view to doing them sooner rather than later.

In the last 5 years, I’ve scuba-dived in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, I’ve been Gorilla tracking in the mountains of Uganda, I’ve Sky Dived from 12,000 feet. I have begun writing, speaking and offering my talents to pro-bono projects. Many of the things I’ve talked about doing for years.

Getting ill taught me that there’s never a “right time” to do the things you really want to do. If you really want to do something – just get started.

3. I learned to stop comparing myself to others

I quickly learned that comparing yourself to others is pointless.

When you’re in a hospital bed and can’t move – the only person you compare yourself to is yourself. The real you. The person you really wanted to be. The things you really wanted to do.

Fortunately for me, I was young enough to come out of hospital and start doing the things I wanted to do. The 70 year old guys in my hospital ward didn’t have that opportunity.

4. I learned to count my blessings

There are 6.8 billion people living on this planet.

Most people reading this article are in the top 5-10% of that population in terms of material wealth, health, living conditions, opportunities and education.

Whilst I already knew this at an intellectual level – it wasn’t until I was forced to lie in bed feeling sorry for myself that it really struck home. I realised that instead of focusing on my illness and all the things I didn’t have, I needed to be more grateful for the health, people and things that I did have.

5. I learned that everything happens for a reason

Looking back, I think getting ill was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Like most people, I’ve had minor wake-up calls in the past. And like everyone else, I’ve simply just ‘hit the snooze button.’

But being forced to spend time in hospital made me take a step back and re-look at myself. Instead of simply chasing the next big deal or next big goal – it taught me some valuable lessons and pushed me to become a far better version of myself.

How about you…?

What’s the wake-up call you’ve had recently?

- Redundancy?
– Problems at work?
– Financial troubles?
– An illness?
– Loss of a loved one?
– Divorce or break up?

The thing about wake-up calls is that they don’t go away. They just get louder and louder until you pay attention and learn the lessons you need to learn.

Are you listening out for the lessons from your own wake-up call or are you simply hitting the snooze button?

About Sital

Sital Ruparelia helps a variety of mid-career professionals make successful career transitions in less time and with less stress. To learn more about Sital and read further articles like click here:


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