I’ve always taken time to reflect on the past month, quarter, and year. With a cancer diagnosis, these periods of reflection went through a reasonably significant re-haul. For a while, review in and of itself was too much. Like a horse in a race, I had blinders on to complete the sprint. As the sprint to end active treatment, small spaces opened up that allowed my brain and soul to engage in what it means to be a “survivor.”
Of course, cancer does funny things to your sense of mortality, time, and how you want to live your life. As I engaged in this intense self-reflection period, I began speaking to other survivors. I began to see that they fell into a few archetypes:
- The New Me: For some, their life pre- and post-cancer looked completely different. They switched professions, moved geographies, and sometimes changed relationships.
- The New Normal: For others, life pre- and post-cancer looked structurally similar, with the establishment of core new habits. They sometimes changed jobs (within the same profession), moved locations (within the same city), and tweaked their lives to be more fulfilling.
- The Re-Start: Some just wanted to go back to their pre-cancer life, as if it never really happened. They preferred to see if as a passing storm that didn’t need much mention.
In either case, I didn’t know which archetype I fell into. I started looking for resources to help me assess my life and what, if any, changes I wanted to make. That’s when I stumbled across Julia Cameron’s - The Artist’s Way. This self-help book guides readers through a twelve-week program to help them recover their creativity. The program consists of various exercises and practices to unlock creativity and overcome creative blocks. The book focuses on cultivating creativity as a spiritual practice and emphasizes the importance of regular creative habits, such as writing "morning pages" and taking oneself on "artist dates." Cameron encourages readers to explore their inner creativity and to trust their creative instincts.
While “The Artist’s Way” was written to provide a roadmap for anyone looking to develop their creativity, I used it to rejuvenate myself and identify the road ahead as a cancer survivor. After going through the 12-week program, I realized I fell into the “New Normal” archetype. I liked my life and family and community, but I needed to establish a few more habits that gave me joy. I did change jobs, moved locations, and rescued two dogs. The Artist’s Way gave me a structure to re-assess, re-center, and re-prioritize.
One exercise from “The Artist’s Way” that I have used many times over is the “life wheel audit.” The life wheel audit helps you assess where you are on the dimensions of life that matter to you, including - career, relationships, health and wellness, personal growth, finances, spirituality, and more. It visually represents what aspects of life need your attention and which parts have been doing okay.
I wanted to do the life wheel audit as the quarter was ending. Here’s my life audit from this week, reflecting on the past quarter.
It became clear that my two focus areas needed to be (1) nutrition and (2) my spiritual practices.
With nutrition, I have been struggling not to fall off the proverbial wagon. It’s been more challenging for me not to eat the many things I’ve chosen to eat sparingly - red meat, sugar, dairy, and processed carb. My spiritual practice, I cannot maintain my while traveling and need to establish that habit in the next quarter.
This simple tool can be done as many times as you want. I often reach out for it when I feel overwhelmed and need structured reflection.
Working with Dr. Maeve Baechler, we’ve summarized how to use this simple tool in our March Free Resource.
You can take download the free resource here.