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Innovation Insights
by Stephen Shapiro

Letter From a Cancer Survivor

One important concept of Goal-Free Living is being present; being focused on where you are now rather than worrying about the future. In the process of giving up control, greater – and unpredictable – things emerge. This often gives you a deep appreciation for what you have…even when you don’t have your health. Here is an email I received from a reader, Yanthe, in the Netherlands.

I always had a pretty ordinary life; went to college, to university (picked a study that would secure me a job), took a job I didn’t like, was stressed out all the time, and dreamt about winning the lottery which would surely give me a great life.

Then I was diagnosed with cancer, which turned out to be even better than winning the lottery. At first I was feeling sorry for myself and obviously very worried. Then this huge gift was bestowed on me while reading in a book about enjoying the now; to enjoy the good things in my life…now. I thought “Yes, I can do that. I can enjoy my husband’s company now, this very minute.” I looked at my husband sitting beside me, and there was this huge transforming moment in which I suddenly wasn’t conscious of anything else except being happy with my husband being in my life. My attention was completely focused in that singular moment, and I just knew that I would have a great time if I now enjoyed all that mattered in my life. And I did.

This experience showed me how absolutely astonishing life is. Just looking at simple things would bring tears to my eyes out of sheer beauty. It turned out that the little things like enjoying a meal with my father-in-law, or the sunshine in the morning, were actually the big enjoyable things. And the things I had always thought were big important things were actually the things that mattered least. I remember taking a shower one morning and shampooing my bald head (due to the chemo) and feeling totally and utterly happy with me, my life, and the way it was unfolding. My only job was to enjoy it, and everything else would just turn out fine…and it did. Doctors were surprised at how strong I was, and that I had even been camping for 2 days when I was supposed to be too tired to do anything. I had the time of my life…and I got well.

A year ago I lost my job, which turned out to be a great gift as well because it gave me the chance to set up business as a photographer, a desire of mine.

I like the whole “Goal Free Living” concept because enjoying the now plays an important role in it, taking the time to enjoy the things that really matters most, is really very liberating.