Dear Why Team member,
I hope you are making the best of this extraordinary time in your life; with thoughts and prayers going out to all who are experiencing great fear and loss. This week we consider:
“Why Story is Important”
We are narrative creatures, we live on and function within a story. And we are co-creators of the stories we live. Co-creators, because the script and background are largely given to us by our parents/caregivers; one could say we play a secondary act until we leave home, only then do we become the main character.
Continuing our exploration of response-ability with the awareness that we all have a story; who is responsible for the quality of your story; the story you tell yourself about your life: past, present, and future?
If someone asked you to tell them your story, how would you tell it?
Where would you start?
Would it be an upper or a downer?
Consider sitting down and writing out your story. Begin with an outline of all the big events thus far, the game changers (such as the one we are all in right now), the larger and more significant stepping stones - then return later to add in detail.
Are you proud of your story thus far?
Are you at least grateful for your story, no matter how difficult and challenging? Or, is your story one of victimhood and helplessness. Every life story has those moments that could send our attitude one way or the other. How is your attitude now?
The key is to remember that we all have moments we may not be proud of, and certainly in the moment, it’s practically impossible to be grateful for the experience. Have you leveraged the passing of time to gain helpful perspective, are you aware that you can edit and revise your story - at least how you think about the events in your life; your attitude toward the events - including the current event: the Pandemic?
Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor and the author of Man’s Search for Meaning wrote: “The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”
It is incredibly powerful to awaken to the importance of story in our lives and very empowering to know as an adult, that we have the power to improve upon the story we live.
A few years back, I experienced the incredible pain of losing what I thought was my story. I had an experience that was not the preferred gradual change to my story, but rather was an abrupt end to it.
I met my wife Rebecca on June 3rd of 1998, and we were married June 12th, 1999. From the moment I met her, I had begun to build and write a story that unbeknownst to me had eventually become more important than the reality of our marriage. I had turned a blind eye to issues that needed more attention, and applied my limitless font of optimism, which had served me so well my entire life.
I became dependent on my story; it became my truth and blinded me to the cracks in our relationship. We had such a good story I thought: how we met at a lake in the summertime, how our first kiss was under 4th of July Fireworks, how we got engaged in Venice and all the details of the wedding itself. I wanted the fairy tale for Rebecca, and I and I was determined to achieve what my divorced parents were unable to accomplish. I had even waited till age 35 to get married in an effort to further insure marriage success.
But, my fairy tale was mine only; Rebecca’s story of our marriage was written with a different pen, and her ink for our story dried up on November 14th, 2015. That moment, and the months that followed - during divorce proceedings - was the most painful period in my life. Fortunately, I now see it as one of the most illuminating and positive highlights in my story. Not because we stopped the divorce midcourse and reconciled, to which I am immensely grateful, but because it woke me to the weaknesses in my story, and my over-dependence on it.
We are narrative creatures who depend on story to make sense of the world, but we are also the creator of our story with the power to rewrite it; rewrite how we view our experiences, including the one we are all in right now.
If so inspired, when you sit down and write out your story, start with an outline of the cream that sits on top.
Why? Because who doesn’t like the cream on top of a desert?! No one wants a plate or drink with crud. Your story may have had crud moments, or maybe you’re currently in a crud moment and can’t find the “cream”; consider another quote from Viktor Frankl:
“What is to give light must endure the burning.”
Why not rewrite a better view of your story?
Why not mix a more enjoyable drink?
If the worst is happening right now, and you are without words of encouragement, try to remember what a difference a day can make - just make it through today. You might just be in the defining moment of your life, the huge twist in an amazing story. Don’t compound the suffering with some defeating story. Put the story on hold and just survive the next minute - hang in there and write when you feel better.
Take each moment of victimhood and rework your story to some good, consider how it could have been worse - if you are alive and able to even think about that part of your story, it could have been worse. You are the creator of your story; no one can force upon you how you think about your life. Choose new thoughts, reach out for help, read new books, inquire, learn, reWrite, reTell - make the crud into cream - tell a story that goes beyond surviving and is one of thriving; accentuate the victor over the victim, the gift over the curse. Even that which may be particularly horrific - has there not been any joy since? How was that joy even possible? Tell that story.
If you are living a defeating story, STOP! Write a story that would encourage and inspire others and see how that story will do the same for you. I’m not saying to make things up, but rather to see things differently. You know already, that not everyone with your circumstances would respond in the exact same way, some would be shut down for life and others would prevail; the difference is the story they tell themselves about their own life.
It’s an act of Will. If left to the path of least resistance, we all can find ourselves to be a victim in a heartbeat. I once heard that the ego thrives on victimhood; the bigger the victim mindset, the larger the ego.
You can step outside of a limiting attitude, of a limiting story.
Dig deeper to find the gold; it is rarely easily found lying on top.
This week and during our continued quarantine, consider starting your biography. Begin by writing an outline of your defining experiences. Before you go deep into those events that have molded, and are molding, your world view, consider making them chapter titles. Maybe even break up your life story into Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3; just writing the outline itself will likely be a productive exercise. You may be amazed yourself by your incredible story.
Now that we are adults, we are 100% responsible for the stories we live.
Maybe this is what defines a grown-up, one who has grown up enough to write an empowering story rather than continue to live on a hand-me-down.
Now is the time to strengthen your story. Fear not the twists and turns that are to come - with your ever-improving attitude toward all things - you will incorporate the surprises to make your story all the more interesting and all the more worthy of living.
Make it a great story, and you’ll make it a great week!