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  • Victoria Lancaster

How life or death experiences may lead us to our true values

“I don’t necessarily see the point of a career… I see the point of being fulfilled,” were the words of a woman interviewed for her experiences with surviving breast cancer and her consequential career pivot and lifestyle change. VBT co-founder Katharine Woodhouse recently co-wrote and published a paper for Cambridge University Press* highlighting such experiences of women who have used their breast cancer survival as a catalyst for career change.

The principal finding of this research was that after unprecedented health boundaries were imposed upon the select women’s lives, they were able to use their experiences as a springboard towards a revitalised identity and a more fulfilling existence. In one case, a breast cancer survivor transitioned from a highly stressful role as police Detective Chief Inspector to become an acupuncturist. In other cases women who worked in the education sector transitioned to creative careers such as ceramics and gardening.


In the research, a selection of career theories were referenced. These theories point to recommendations for how people can best make and manage their careers. The women seemed to follow a similar trajectory in order to get from A to B. Steps included things like: 1. Becoming the protagonist in your life 2. Seeking work that aligns with your values and 3. Solidifying or setting the pace for your career in a way that allows room in your life for other values.

The life or death experience of battling breast cancer prompted a motivation not to get caught up in the triviality of life but instead to pursue lifelong ambitions and ultimately to re-kindle true values.

By broadening the scope of Katharine’s research, we can address the unified struggle against the Covid-19 crisis in all of our lives. How might we let go of the hindrance it has caused on our lives and instead see it as a catalyst for value inspired living? Let’s find a way to seize this opportunity for change and defeat challenges by pursuing previously forgotten lifelong ambitions.

Just as breast cancer acted as a catalyst for re-evaluation of the self and hopping off from life’s high pressure treadmill, the worldwide pandemic may also allow us to take positive steps to re-discover and perpetuate values that may have previously been lost.


Katharine’s article further reinforces the core VBT message, that when we pursue values we ultimately pursue success. The true catch is that success looks different for everyone.


* view article here.

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