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The Model

Navigating a health crisis like breast cancer can bring up a lot of uncomfortable feelings. And to get through that discomfort I really lean on my coaching tools.



It doesn’t mean I don’t feel fear, anxiety, uncertainty, grief, etc, but I’m able to use these tools to navigate it all so as not to add struggle to the struggle. Meaning, breast cancer is going to bring up a lot of uncomfortable feelings and instead of making THAT a problem, I'm able to experience and process through that emotion with surrender and acceptance and really find the places I have choice and power over my circumstances.


So with that, I want to introduce one of the tools I use every day. It’s a mindset tool developed by my coach, Brooke Castillo, and it’s called, “The Model.” Easy enough.


The Model states that our circumstances are neutral, that our thoughts about a circumstance create our feelings, that our feelings dictate our actions, and the actions we take (or don’t take) create our results.


CIRCUMSTANCES are neutral


THOUGHTS create FEELINGS


FEELINGS create ACTION


ACTIONS create RESULTS


So when we are experiencing an uncomfortable feeling, it can be so helpful to flip into “the watcher.” That means getting outside of yourself and noticing what you're feeling. If you don't think you're good at this, I assure you, it's a skill that can be learned. “I notice I’m feeling fill in the blank.”


I’m going use an example from my life here. There was a time I felt very helpless. When I was going through breast cancer treatment I was diagnosed with lymphedema in my chest wall and I also had a frozen shoulder. Those were my circumstances. And I was feeling helpless. So I asked myself, “What thought is causing me to feel helpless?”


Now, part of my brain is going to want to tell me that it’s not my thought, it’s my circumstance (loss of range of motion and pain from lymphedema and a frozen shoulder) that is causing me to feel helpless, But that’s not true. If that were true we’d all have the same thoughts and feelings about everything. And we definitely do not.


So when I asked myself what thought I'm having that’s creating helplessness, my answer was, “I’m never going to feel like myself again.”


Once I established the thought I'm having and the feeling it creates, I next noticed what action I'm taking from that feeling, Then I can notice what results I'm experiencing.


So the action I was taking from helplessness was:


• not doing my exercises from the PT

• guarding my arm

• asking for help with things I could have done myself

• ruminating

• feeling sorry for myself

• googling lymphedema and post surgical frozen shoulder

• doom scrolling on the internet

The result I was creating? Not getting back to myself and staying stuck in helplessness.

My arm was not getting better, I was not figuring out how to be more independent, and I was making my mood worse by googling and doom scrolling.


So here's my model:

Circumstance: Diagnosed lymphedema and frozen shoulder with decreased ROM / pain

Thought: I’ll never feel like myself again

Feeling: Helpless

Action: (as above)

Result: Not feeling like myself


So now that I have my whole model laid out I can start to ask myself questions like “Do I like this result?” “Is there something else I could think instead?” “What’s in the way of me thinking something that might feel better and create a more favorable result?”


That’s where the work starts. Because at the end of the day we want to be able to see what our thoughts are creating, identify where our choices lie, and how and where we have power in every situation.

So for this example my shift was small at first and started with shifting from "I’m never going to feel like myself again” to “Maybe I can feel like myself again.”


Just a subtle little shift, but enough to open up juuuust a little.


We’re not talking about going from "I’m never going to feel like myself again" to "I’m amazing and strong and in perfect health." No. That’s toxic positivity and it’s not very useful to just try really hard to believe something that you don’t actually believe. That creates cognitive dissonance.


Oftentimes we take little tiny baby steps and just see what comes up as we move from a model that’s unintentional, like you’re just a victim of the circumstance, to an intentional model where you are creating your experience and results.


For me, little by little I opened up my belief to feel more empowered, took different actions, like doing my exercises & finding hacks to be more independent, and now here I am with my arm at about 98% back to normal. I’m definitely feeling like myself again.

OBJECTION: But Jen, what if we want to and we try but we just can’t shift our thinking??


I'm so glad you asked.


Then we look at why. There’s really a top down approach and a bottom up approach. The top down approach is the mindset or thought work where we use this model that I’ve laid out here.

But sometimes after a traumatic event our brains aren’t in a mode to be able to access the “math” of The Model. You can probably relate to the phrase “when emotions are high, intelligence is low." Or more pointedly, our nervous systems are in a survival state: flight or flight and sometimes freeze, and we're not doing our best thinking or tapping into our intuition and higher knowing.


Just like animals in the wild, we have a primitive brain center called the amygdala which is responsible for detecting threats. It surveys the environment and decides we’re safe or unsafe. When it decides that we’re unsafe it triggers a fight or flight response. Which is actually protective. It raises our heart rate, sends blood to the muscles, sets off surges of hormone, increases our breathing so we can fight against or run from the threat.


But when the threat isn’t a lion or pack of wolves, it’s a cancer diagnosis, there’s no way to discharge this energy and then it can be trapped and stored in the body. It can look like anxiety, edginess, fear, or hyper-vigilance to name a few. And if this goes on for long enough the nervous system might go into a freeze state in which we feel overwhelmed, collapsed, or confused, and it’s really hard to take action.


So in coaching, when our bodies are in a survival state we use a bottom up approach and start with regulating our nervous system first. Then, once we’re grounded and regulated and feel safe, we can start to do the thought work with The Model.


Coaching is all about building up that felt sense of support and safety so the brain and body can relax and we can access these higher states.


What would you decide on purpose to think about your life? What results would you create?


This work is transformational and gives you access to the best most intentional version of yourself. Book an appointment for a free consult call to discuss how to get started.


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