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Balancing Bipolar in the Board Room

Updated: Nov 6, 2022



In the United States, 5.7 million people have bipolar disorder. The majority of that population developed bipolar disorder when they were young adults, the time when one usually starts their career. Starting out in your profession can be stressful enough, add the time and effort it takes to manage your bipolar and you end up putting in way more work than the average employee. Below are five tips to help you become successful and thrive in your career.


1. Identify & develop your strengths.


Having bipolar comes with its advantages. Characteristic traits such as being empathetic, creative, and resilient are just a few. StrenthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to learn what their natural talents are and how to further develop them. Once you discover your strengths, you can start to position yourself in opportunities where you will excel. When you understand and utilize your strengths, you are truly able to contribute to the success of your organization and your career.


2. Define what success is for you.


Career success doesn’t have to mean being able to retire at age 50. If family is important to you, success may be having a job that allows you to be home by 5pm, so you can spend time with your children and enjoy family dinners together. Map out what your ideas of success are and write down steps to take so you can achieve your visions of success.


3. Know the environments and conditions your work best in.


Are tasks easier to complete when done by yourself, or with a team? Do you like being directed by others, or do you feel you’re better off being your own boss? Some people find working in a corporate office keeps them accountable for the projects they are doing, while others feel they perform better when they have the freedom to work at home. Which do you prefer? It usually takes some trial and error to figure out where you function best, but in the long run it’s worth the time to find out.


4. Have at least one mentor.


Many consider their therapist as their life coach, sounding board, and yes, even mentor. You too may consider your therapist or psychiatrist to be a mentor figure in your life, but it’s important to also have a mentor who has mastered their craft in the position and industry you want to be in. Ask yourself what you want to learn and then choose someone you respect and whom you feel will be able to help you grow the most. You may think asking someone to mentor you is uncommon and intimidating, but many CEOs and other company heads make time to take on mentorship positions. They like being able to share the experiences they've had and what they learned. You can simply offer to buy them coffee and ask them a few questions when you meet. Once you have a mentor, plan times to get together. Depending on your schedules it may be once a month or perhaps even quarterly. Be sure to evaluate your growth, as well as the mentorship as a whole. And of course, don’t forget to write your Thank You cards and show your gratitude for their advice and time.


5. Know your values.


Knowing your values helps you with decision-making. While the vision of your career may change, your values should not. Make a list of your top five values and write them down on an index card. Some values you may have are health, family, compassion, integrity, and ambition. When making a career decision refer to the index card with your values. For example, if you are deciding which company to work for, make sure there is no conflict between the organizations’ values and your own. If you value both health and compassion and are offered a position with a salary well above 100k at a large company that causes pollution and harms animals and the environment, and a position that pays 80k for a small startup whose mission is to help underprivileged children with medical needs, you will probably feel more incongruence, stress, and unhappiness in your life by taking the first job –even with the higher income. It would be more beneficial for you to take the position that aligns with what you believe is important.


References


Bipolar disorder statistics. Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. (2019, July 12). https://www.dbsalliance.org/education/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-disorder-statistics/.

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