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.