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Sometimes life can feel robotic. We get up every morning following the same script from the day before.
Pressures of maintaining a household compounded by work demands seem to fill every waking hour. Days, weeks, months, and years are logged as events in the calendar, not experiences shared in the story of my amazing life.
For many, their story can seem like it’s been co-opted by others. You lost control of the narrative. Instead it feels like your spouse, kids, boss, or other people write your script.
One may wonder, “Do I have control over the narrative of my life?”
Now, that’s an important question.
Or another way to ask it…
“Do I own the pen? Or, have I left it for others to write my story?”
To live a meaningful life you have to control the narrative. Here are some things to keep in mind to become the storyteller of your amazing life.
#1: Be the author of your story
You own the pen. The blank pages are for you to fill.
Free will is about being self-directive. It’s the essence of what it means to be the author.
Your story will include contributing authors. These are likely key people with whom you share life. Their presence can draw you out and shape your narrative in some meaningful way.
When you marry and have a family you will co-author these chapters with your spouse. This is a collaborated story. If you delegate the story to your spouse to write, you will lose control of your narrative and you act out the story he/she has scripted for you.
Never give your pen away.
Your story contains chapters of experiences and decisions you make that express who you are and describe how you choose to live. This includes roles as spouse, parent, professional, sibling, or friend.
#2: Your story will include events you didn’t plan
Human life has a natural progression. You’re born, you grow old, then you die. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always follow a straight path.
People die early, disasters, hardship or some other difficult event happens in the course of life. You have no control over events. You cannot foresee what’s coming to avoid it or prevent it from happening. You simply have to deal with it.
When unplanned events happen, especially ones that cause suffering or alter the course of life, you can feel a loss of control.
Do not put away your pen. Chronicle your experience. Do not allow yourself to be defined by it.
Hardship is a chapter, not the entire book.
- A parent dies when you’re young.
- A child is born with a disability.
- Your home burns to the ground in a wildfire.
#3: You control the narrative of difficult events
You may not be able to control what happens to you, but you can decide how you interpret it.
For example, let’s say you experience the loss of a loved one at an early age. If you are defined by the event you might say, “I cannot allow myself to get close to people or they will leave me.” This narrative is a story of distant relationships and a failure to establish intimacy.
An alternative narrative might be. “No guarantees for a long life, so I will make the best of my relationships while they last.” This story is one filled with close, meaningful relationships.
A dark event can produce a multiple chapters of a disillusioned life. Or, it can result in chapters of recovery, meaning, and purpose.
I witness couples recover from the hardship of adultery to co-author a narrative of forgiveness, restoration, and renewal of intimacy.
Additionally, I see individuals escape from an abusive marriage. The horror of their story followed by chapters of survival, healing, and later discovery of love with a safe partner.
#4: Include chapters of self-discovery
Who are you? What do you like? How have you grown or changed over time? What did you learn about yourself that helps you be a better person?
These are all great questions to reflect on or to write in a journal.
Allow me to answer a few.
I am a man of the people and get excited by empowering others. My passion is basketball and I push myself to perform at a high level at my current age. Over time, I learned to set boundaries so I have space to develop myself. Today, I continue learning to be comfortable in my own skin.
What are you learning about yourself at this stage of life?
#5: Find meaning in the mundane
What gives you meaning? Can you find it in the mundane?
In the movie, Family Man, Jack Campbell discovers that true meaning in life is not living isolated from others in his perfect self-crafted existence of wealth and success, but it is in changing poopy diapers, making his daughter chocolate milk and serenading his wife on her birthday.
This is a great antidote to a robotic existence. The roles in life don’t have to be imposed scripts we roleplay. Instead, they can be a collection of stories about experiences with people near and dear who impact each other in positive and sometimes negative ways. Yet we work through the bad and savor the good, all the while thankful that this story feels real, and good, and just right for me.
Now it’s your turn
Do you own your pen? Or, have you left your story for others to write? What’s happening now in the amazing story of your life?