It’s completely normal to feel disoriented and detached from our old lives and original selves after anything as life-altering as a breast cancer diagnosis. It’s like we’ve been picked up in a personal tidal wave, tossed and tumbled, and washed up on a new shore, dripping and wondering where the heck we are.

When this happened to me–after the initial diagnosis and urgent treatment, when I could see I was going to live a while longer–I turned to my most tried-and-true coaching tools to help ground me and get me back in touch with myself.

One thing I like about the coaching tool I am going to share with you today is that it’s uncomplicated. Another is that it’s steeped in research into what is most important in life; in positive psychology, these are called The Pillars of Wellbeing. They are universal; as relevant to me in Boulder County, Colorado, as they were to South African township students I taught it to years ago.

What I recommend is that you spend a few minutes thinking about what matters most to you in each category outlined below. This will connect you deeply to what matters to you now and what has always mattered to you–threads that will help weave together the “yous” from all stages of your life.

The acronym for this tool is SIMPLE:


Success gets to mean whatever you want it to: professional, financial, personal, social–any goals that will make you feel fulfilled. What do you want to accomplish? What dreams have you had since you were young? Since you got older? What ideas have been bubbling up inside that you’d love to bring into being?


What do you love to do? What makes you lose track of time? How would you spend a paid holiday? What section of the bookstore do you gravitate toward? What did you love as a child? What project supplies are gathering dust somewhere in your home?


How do you want to leave your mark on the world? In what ways are you involved with something larger than yourself, like a community or a movement? If you have children, what lessons do you most want to teach them?


This is probably the most important category of all, as the quality of our relationships directly determines the quality of our lives. Who do you love? Who would you invite on to your life raft and who might you lovingly invite to take a seat on another raft with other people? Who fills your bucket? If you drew concentric circles, who would be in the innermost one? The next one? The next?


How do you nurture your body, mind, and soul? What are your goals or dreams for your precious self? What brings you a feeling of physical well-being, or what do you imagine for yourself in the future? What fuels your imagination, your curiosity? What do you love learning? What spiritual beliefs feel right and affirming to you?


How do you like to feel? We might all say “happy,” but what does that mean for you? Safe, calm, and content? Zestful, energized, and vibrant? Fierce? Brene Brown’s new book, Atlas of the Heart, is a wonderful resource for ideas and vocabulary around emotions, and we have an “emotional thesaurus” you can download right here to help you think.


That’s it! I’ve used this to plot big-picture goals (I call it my SIMPLE life plan) and from there, I can set daily and mid-term goals to help me stay connected to myself and do what’s most important to me.

I hope it helps you do the same.


Do you need kind, compassionate support to bounce back from a negative experience? If so, then get in touch with me now, and let’s make the most of your precious time, energy and love. 


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Kristen Carter

Kristen Carter, Certified coach, author, and breast cancer survivor. More

Self-Love Comes First

Self-Love Comes First

Valentine’s Day can be a wonderful holiday if you’re in a relationship with someone you care for (and who cares for you). But whether you’re in such a partnership or not, there is one person you should love above all others: yourself. “What??” you might ask. “What...

Dealing With Survivor’s Guilt

Dealing With Survivor’s Guilt

Many of us with breast cancer become close friends with others that we meet in support groups, online forums, and through friends. Sadly, some of them pass away, leaving us with grief and, sometimes, survivor’s guilt. Survivor’s guilt is real and we all experience it...

Living Without Regrets

Living Without Regrets

“I wish I’d lived a life true to myself rather than the one others expected of me.” That was the number-one regret expressed by dying people cared for by Australian palliative nurse Bronnie Ware, who worked with hospice patients for almost ten years and who wrote...

Dealing With Breast Cancer-related Weight Gain

Dealing With Breast Cancer-related Weight Gain

As if having breast cancer isn’t bad enough, many women find that they put on unwanted pounds due to the specific treatment they’re on and/or feeling too tired to exercise the way they used to. I am not a metabolism expert but did some research and found that the...

Taming “Scanxiety”

Taming “Scanxiety”

In the same way we can imagine beautiful futures like a cure for cancer and watching our grandchildren thrive, we can imagine the most awful futures: disease progression, painful treatment, devastating side effects, dying. Imagination is a uniquely human capacity,...

Get through this with self-love, a clear focus on what matters most to you, and help from someone who's been there.

Explore what kind, compassionate support can feel like with a no-obligation conversation with me by phone or by Zoom.