There is a notable increase in the amount of discussion about cancer lately. This is not only
because we're coming on the heels of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but rather the discussion that is growing from the core question of, “How can we give better care?”
This question has a myriad of avenues of pursuit, including advances in treatment, increased
accuracy of diagnoses, prevention, improved nutrition, and more. However, the solution always
appears to be in the future.
This begs another question: "What can we do right now?" The longer I have worked with oncology patients, and the more I work with the clinical and non-clinical staff who directly care for them, the more I hear, “That would have helped [insert time frame] ago.”
So, how do we embrace the current moment and help make a positive impact in a generally
negative situation? Though I am unsure of the best answer, I have noticed several key events that happen when you want to make a change:
1. Accept your current circumstances. The key to change is to figure out what you like and
dislike about your current situation. This does not mean that you should get down on yourself or
give up hope. It is very easy to go straight to the dislikes, but challenge yourself to focus on the
likes. It provides a better foundation for growth.
2. Make the commitment to identify things (objects, persons, places, events, etc.) that make you
feel happy. This step can be difficult; we are constantly bombarded with events, people and
situations in our personal lives and in the media that make us feel negative emotions. The key is
to remember that there are always good things happening in the world around us, as well as in
your own life.
At this point you may be thinking, “But Matt, there is nothing good in my life.” I challenge you
to think about this: how do you know something is bad? Well, in order for something to feel bad,
something has to have happened in the past that was good, right? Otherwise, we would have no
frame of reference to categorize these “bad” feelings and events.
So, if you are noticing all this “bad” in your life, then surely there must be some good in your
Now, this doesn’t mean that “bad” things won’t happen. They will. Our world is constantly in
motion: ebb and flow, in and out, up and down, night and day. The trick is to be present and
aware of where you choose to place your focus.
3. Find new things throughout your day that make you happy, and do this every single day.
These things can be simple, no need for them to be extravagant or expensive. A moment of
gratitude can be as simple as, “I like the way that cloud looks.” The crazy thing about this
experiment in happiness is that those things that made you happy yesterday may not
today. And that’s okay.
4. Be kind to yourself about outcomes. You can’t control everything, nor should you. This isn’t
saying throw caution to the wind and to not plan or have direction. This suggestion is simply to
allow yourself to have a goal, put your focus on that goal and then allow whatever happens to
happen. Allow yourself to accept the outcome, whatever that may be, and then you can re-
evaluate and ask yourself, “Am I really doing my best?” If the answer is “yes,” then why should
you feel bad or sad? The only thing in life you can really judge yourself on is whether or not you
did your best with what you knew at that given moment.
5. Take ownership of your environment, your actions, and your speech. It is important to know
that to make a change now, you have to know that you are capable of change and be willing to
go through that process. Each one of us is the master of our life. The choices we made in the past directly influence the present. We have the power to make those choices and redirect our lives.
Notice I did not say controller of our lives. The only thing you can truly hold accountable is
6. Laugh and smile often. Permit yourself time to be selfish and indulge in an activity that you
enjoy and that promotes your individual growth. Do something that makes you feel happy and do it as often as you can. Keep in mind that it should help you grow and not hurt anyone else.
7. Be grateful for what you have now. Yes, it could always be better, but it could also be worse.
These are simply a few observations I have made that seem to help maintaining a positive
outlook and living in the moment.
Have you made any observations lately?