You’ve experienced many things so far in your life. The same things that several billion other human beings have experienced. We all had a childhood. We all had parents (in whatever form that takes in your life.)
One thing we did not all experience is the same story.
Each person is unique. They take in different types of information. And undertake different types of processing in the brain . And make different decisions.
Ones’ childhood is open to multiple interpretations because of this process.
I refer to the unique interpretation and explanation of your life so far as your story.
Got that? Okay. We all have a story.
As we write the books of our lives, we choose a path that is in line with our story, and we interpret our lives in the style of our story.
When we get to adulthood, we’ve got a lot of stories. We’ve written a fairly significant tome so far, with multiple chapters.
When an author composes a book, they need to keep with the flow of the book. New chapters fall “into the theme” of the story so far.
We do this! We choose paths & actions that are in line with the flow of our book – even if we are not aware of it. We line up with our story so far.
We also intepret things in a way that fits with the book we have written. We decide what this life means. Life is complicated, but we’ve sort of already authored a manual. We decide what it means when our son or daughter cries. What it means when we accomplish a challenge. When we decide to try a new recipe.
When events happen, we interpret it through the filter of the story we have written so far. We can’t help it.
You Can See Others’ Stories, Too.
I love studying people. You don’t have to be a professional ontological coach to get a feel for what someone’s story is.
Here is an example of a story.
Let’s say a culmination of many small events causes a person experiences in early life to experience strong emotions of fear, unpredictability and vulnerability.
Their survival instinct becomes protecting themselves and being extremely cautious.
The first chapter of their book sets up this theme. As they grow, and learn, their memories hold fear, unpredictability and vulnerability. They can’t help it. Every time something happens in their life that triggers these emotions, they get recorded in their story.
By the time they reach adulthood, they have chapters and chapters of their book written and recorded.
If you have a conversation with someone who has a strong story of fear, you will notice they speak that story, they focus on conversation topics involving those emotions. You will also notice they filter things through that lens: People will take advantage of you. People are not good. Fear things. Protect yourself against others. Don’t trust. Be cautious. Fear change. Take the secure route. Focus on family. Don’t rock the boat.
Do you have someone in your life with a strong story that is oppositional to yours?
Sometimes I get frustrated at the above types’ lack of trust of people. Their tendency to discuss the negativity in the world, their interest in the latest business scams, their warnings when we go travel to protect ourselves from this or that.
But I must understand this is their story, this is what they’ve written and this is how they are continuing to write their chapters.
How to Handle People’s Strong Stories
Taking the time to observe someone’s story creates empathy and reduces frustration. It will give you the power to respectfully say “I do not have the same story. I do not look at things the same way. I respect your opinion but I will choose my own.” It also releases you from the power of others’ assessments and judgements, because you know that they are simply pulling their own book off of the shelf and referring to chapter x from their book.
Remember that We Are the Authors of Our Own Book
You hear gurus, coaches, influencers, leaders talk all of the time about working on your mindset, shaping success mindsets. ALL of them. Every single one is tapping into the idea that we author, and continue to curate our stories.
You CAN write a new chapter.
Practice Observing OTHER Things that Don’t Typically Make it Through Your Filter.
This is when you hear leaders talk about grattitude lists or journals. On the Great Maternity Leave I share a post discussing how I use Instagram to implement “positivity” filters.
Here’s a typical story. I am always late. What if you started noticing every single time you are on time. Or how early you are for a few things? How you are aware of time? It’s hard. You’ll notice it’s hard because your filter is so strong. Which is precisely why you need to work on it.
Realize How Powerful Your Speech Is.
Nobody actually knows your story because the book is sitting inside your mind. That is, until we SPEAK. Language is generative. Did you know, when we speak, we are creating our future and our reality? Think about it.
“Let’s go for coffee next Tuesday” does not exist when we think it. It becomes real when we say it. Make sense? 6 words out of my mouth have just shaped my future – specifically what my day is going to be like next Tuesday.
When we choose to speak, we are officially reading our book out loud.
What story do you want to share with your listeners. If you want to start writing chapters in a new style, shift the original style of your chapters. Re-read them out loud in a new interpretation. In a new voice.
(As I write this, I can’t help but think about reading books to my two year old. When I’m blah and disengaged I just read the text blandly, wanting to get through to the end of the book. When I’m happy and engaged, I read the text in all sorts of fun and ridiculous voices.)
Give it a good think. Reread a few times to let it sink in, because this is a heavy post.
Then, in the comments, tell me about a story you have written. What’s the general “theme of your book?” Are you re-writing at the moment? Are you changing the style? How has your book influenced your own decisions and opportunities in your life ?