I’m sure you’ve heard people tell you about the story of their life: one constant series of ups and downs; challenging but I know if I just keep on going eventually something will present itself; one disappointment after another; I don’t know where ideas come from – I seem to bumble around for a bit and then “poof” a brilliant idea emerges!
Our stories about our lives are individual and unique yet, as I’m sure you’ve recognised, they all share many common and recognisable elements.
The art of story-telling seems to be as old as human societies. As soon as we engaged with speech we used words to convey information, facts about food, about shelter, about predators and danger. We soon learned to tell stories that contained more than the basic information and that story-telling has shaped our brains.
Our physical brains are shaped by things we do – our food, our sleep, our physical activity and also by our experiences, by what and how we think. Our mind, the bit of us that thinks, guides and shapes our focus, our attention, the things we notice and decide have importance or significance for us.
And what we focus on increases. So we can choose to focus on particular things with the intention of increasing their impact, presence or significance in our lives.
If we focus on pain or loss, sure enough we notice where our life is hurting and lacking. If we focus on gratitude and abundance, things show up for which we can give thanks. We can choose to focus our minds on finding or taking or on giving – it’s not that one state is objectively better than another but our focus will lead to us noticing more and this will then become part of the story of who we are in this world.
So what are the elements of your story?
The raw ingredients include our values, beliefs and attitudes. In general, do you believe that you can or you can’t? Do you believe in the value of friendship or the safety of solitude? Is it better to put your trust in others or to look after it yourself? Is life full of danger or opportunity? Are you more logical or creative? These elements which might start off as being a small part of our genetics become part of our habitual thinking and orientation. They establish neural pathways that serve us and the more we use them and become familiar with them, the more they become a hard-wired part of our thinking.
And of course, the result of these ways of thinking are our behaviours, our actions, our habits.
During this process we create the reality of our experience of our life.
This process is the same as the creation of any movie. Because our movies are our own, we get to choose the players, the actors, the stars and the supporters. We choose the plots, the challenges and the outcome. For most of our lives, our stories are fairly predictable. We are secure at home. We leave on a journey. We walk through the forest and encounter a wolf…
If you take a moment to reflect on your own life, where have your journeys taken you? When you meet your wolves, what is the outcome?
The “reality” of your story is likely to be much less based in reality than you think. The wolf for example… a representation of an external threat. How big is that wolf and how hungry? What resources do you have? Must you fight, can you hide, can this wolf be tamed?
Your stories probably have a particular habitual plot based on your prior experiences. Re-reading that last paragraph, as you think of your story as a movie plot, can you think of an alternative ending?
Our lives are not predetermined. The past doesn’t need to be a predictor of the future. In your movie you can create a different plot, a different path and a better outcome.
No, it’s not a magic wand but it can be the first step in the process of building a new habit of resourcefulness and resilience, of acceptance or creativity or … it’s your story, how would you like it to develop?
Often we are so familiar with our old stories that it feels fixed, like reality, impossible to escape. But I’m sure we’ve all heard of people who have broken the mold. There might even be examples in our lives where something unexpectedly good or different has happened on rare occasions.
If you need a second pair of eyes to help you see your story more clearly or you might want to explore some alternative endings, get in touch by clicking the link below my photograph.
In the meantime, get yourself a good story to be going along with!