by Joan Friedlander
Are you at a point where you feel like you’re ready to step up your engagement in the world, yet concerned that if you do you’ll risk your health? You’re not alone. I, and everyone I interviewed for “Business from Bed” had the same concern. On one hand, it’s exciting to feel the return of energy. It’s also normal to wonder if you will find yourself in another flare-up if you overextend yourself once again.
I’d like to introduce you to SWOT, an evaluation tool commonly used in business to take a snapshot of current conditions in order to develop intelligent strategies for moving forward. Used in a personal context, SWOT can be used to clear the emotional and mental clutter that can distort perception, and to reveal priorities as well as new opportunities. I’ll walk you through a SWOT analysis so that you can see how it works. It will help to have a goal in mind, something you’ve been considering but hesitant to pursue.
What is SWOT?
SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
Strengths and weaknesses most commonly refer to your internal conditions, opportunities and threats to external conditions. Evaluating your current situation through these 4 lenses will help you uncover positive forces that can work in your favor, and potential problems that need to be understood and addressed.
It Starts with Your Goal
Let’s say you’ve been on family or disability leave for a while – formally or informally – and you feel ready to get back to work – but you’re not sure if you should or can, or even want to. Perhaps your question isn’t about work, but about social engagement or returning to school. SWOT works here too. it doesn’t matter how “large” or “small” your objective.
Note: By no means are the suggested questions below the end all and be all. If I were coaching you and we were looking at these together, I’d offer additional questions based on your objective. These are meant to get your juices flowing. If other important questions arise feel free to ask and answer.
It’s always good to remember that you do have strengths. As you respond to the following questions, keep your goal in mind.
- What have you learned about your courage and determination these past few months (or years)?
- What new skills have you developed? Think about the many ways you have adapted to your limitations. For example, have you learned how to ask for and accept help? Have you learned to speak up when your needs aren’t being met, or if you don’t trust the advice you’ve been given? Have you invented some pretty interesting ways to get what you need?
- Put your illness aside for a minute. Think about things you do every day, especially those things you enjoy. Think about your character, too. Don’t be shy here. Write down everything you do well.
Yes, you have to look here too. If you don’t acknowledge your limitations and restrictions, you can’t get the complete picture. So take a deep breath and consider the following:
- What persisting physical limitations are you dealing with? Consider limitations in energy, in physical strength and actual abilities.
- If you pursue your intended goal, what might make it difficult to move forward? This is not about external factors, such as what others might think. It’s about your thoughts and your concerns, both the real challenges and imagined ones.
From this view you start to look out into the world to see what your options are. This is a great place to brainstorm, to write everything down that comes to mind. You might notice doubts and “yeah buts” as you brainstorm. If they arise, just jot them down and put them aside. (They’ll likely belong in either the Weaknesses or Threats department.)
- With regard to your goal, what are others doing that interest you? By the way, this is where “envy” can work on your behalf. In my experience, when I feel envious, it can show me my unacknowledged dreams and wishes.
- What resources are out there that might help you achieve your goal?
Consider organizations, people and technology. If it’s a social goal, consider groups with similar interests, friends you feel comfortable with, etc. If it’s a work or business goal, consider a variety of options, such as remote working, temporary positions, volunteer opportunities, part-time work, etc.
I know how overwhelming these external threats to success can feel. Yet, when you get them down on paper, they tend to loosen their hold on you, and you can do something about them.
- Outside impressions. Yes, people (employers, customers, friends, family, etc.) are likely to have thoughts about you and your situation. Sometimes you can impact this, and other times you can’t. Your job is to recognize this and then decide if you even care or need to do anything to address them.
It’s a rare person who doesn’t care what others think or feel, so wherever you are with this, get it down!
- Changes in technology and cultural shifts. If you’ve been out of circulation for a while, you are likely to encounter changes in the business and social world that you have not had the “pleasure” of dealing with. If you’re considering returning to work, it will help you to see what others in your line of work are doing now. If Social Media has been your primary way of connecting, you might feel awkward in-person. Look at both sides on this one.
Bringing it All Together
Once you have answered these questions, it’s time to step back and evaluate your situation. At some point, you might share your responses with someone else, and get their perspective, too.
With regard to your objective, can you see your way forward? If yes, it’s time to use the information in your SWOT analysis to develop your action plan.
- Strengths show you what you can rely on, and what you can apply to the objective.
- Weaknesses show you internal issues and challenges you’ll need to address.
- Opportunities point the way to action steps towards your goal.
- Threats reveal external obstacles that you might need to tackle.
Whatever you uncovered here, remember your beautiful spirit, and by all means, love yourself for your determination.
About The Author: Joan Friedlander
Joan Friedlander is the author of “Business from Bed” and co-author of “Women, Work, and Autoimmune Disease.” Joan is an expert in working and living with chronic or serious illness. Through writing and coaching, she guides men & women who are called to reassess their direction in life – and business – in the wake of a health setback. For more tips from Joan, visit www.JoanFriedlander.com.