Real Talk

Innovation as a life process

June 2, 2024 Word for Word Media 0Comment

Sandra Bollen-Hughes unpacks the term innovation and depicts how it can be used in your cancer journey.

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To get juices flowing when writing about a topic, it’s often useful to look up the definition of the main concept. With due diligence, I looked up the definition of innovation and found it to be: “The process of bringing about new ideas, methods, products, services, or solutions that have a significant positive impact and value.”  I found this definition tantalizing in psychological terms. Although innovation is most associated with technology or business practices, innovation as a life process is a valuable concept. In any situation, you always prefer significant positive impacts and values. If you think about it, any life situation can benefit from innovation. Innovation is what drives us all forward as humanity.

The upward drive

But when do you need innovation? When everything is working beautifully in a system, what would be the point of innovation? The adage, “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” certainly makes a great deal of sense. Only when you encounter problems with an aspect of a situation, do you begin to question and search for answers. You seldom invite big changes into a functioning space, except possibly out of boredom. But once there is a problem identified in a system, creativity and innovation immediately beg to be brought to the table.

Cancer as the path to innovation

It’s very common for people to experience the diagnosis of cancer as a significant disruption of their running life system. Cancer can often force you off your usual road of habits and familiarity into unknown territory. You’re stripped of certain mental safeguards and expectations and sent off to negotiate a whole new array of challenges.

In this, we can immediately see that cancer warriors will be required to be innovative and creative in their life spaces going forward, as the demands and expectations on them will have shifted. Innovation and creativity will be jumping up and down begging to be part of the conversation.

Reframing your outlook

While obviously not suggesting that you should celebrate having cancer, it’s possible to view the changes brought into your life as a chance for innovation and progress. You can begin to ask questions of your life to date. What areas of my life can do with an upgrade? Do any relationships need a refresh? What less functional or less productive aspects of my life do I want to discard?

The disruption can take you deeper into being honest with yourself and genuine in relating to others. You can shift and move things about to be more aligned with what you now see to need change. In so doing, you reframe the notion of cancer as just being merely a disruption, to allow it to be an opportunity for you to do much deeper self-analysis and work on self-fulfilment as you seek out innovation for your life circumstances. Cancer can break your own preconceived ideas and barriers in unexpected ways.

Growing and changing

The model of post-traumatic growth, put forward by Calhoun and Tedeschi1 , emphasises, for us all, that trauma and difficult life circumstances can support, rather than inhibit, a drive forward in our lives. Research done by these psychologists has shown that people can find meaning in the traumatic events of their lives and begin to live differently. To do so requires a recognition that any change in your life usually carries that very important ingredient to growth and progress: the opportunity for innovation. Catching the opportunity while it’s in front of you always takes courage. Your best friend here will be deep honesty about where you need to adapt or change and where you need to set aside the old for the new with innovation as your driver.


  1. Tedeschi, R; Moore, B. (2016) The Post Traumatic Growth Workbook: Coming Through the Trauma Wiser, Stronger, and More Resilient
Sandra Bollen Hughes

MEET THE EXPERT – Sandra Bollen-Hughes

Sandra Bollen-Hughes is a counselling psychologist. In 2015 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and realised the great burden of stress that cancer places on patients and so she developed an interest in cancer counselling. She went on to study cancer counselling to gather insight into the field of psycho-oncology. She runs a practice both for general and cancer counselling.

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