Is there a tender, hurt place in your chest? A steely determination in your gut? A sense of not being enough? A feeling of well-being and possibility? Most of us have some or all!
In helping people find lives they truly love, I have had the honor of listening to many people tell their stories of how they got to be who they are and where they are. I ask about what they liked best during a particular time in their life, where they struggled, what was the theme?
At the end of each period in their lives — high school, college, jobs — I ask what they learned about themselves and the world.
This is where the real story gets told. This is where all of us assign meaning to our experiences.
Recently a woman told of being bullied in junior high and high school – pushed down stairs, booed when she did a presentation and more. In spite of her pleas, her parents refused to allow her to change schools. At last she graduated and went to college. When I asked her what she realized she replied: I knew I was strong and good – that I could take on whatever was out there.
Today, Marguerite is a well-respected leader, a top executive in a successful enterprise and one of her passions is assuring other women don’t get “pushed around”.
Is the hurt from the bullying gone? No. In fact, Marguerite’s flashing blue eyes filled with tears when she recalled those days.
How easy and understandable it would have been for her tell a very different story, to give a very different meaning to her experience. But, successful people find a way to reframe the harsh experiences in their lives. Think of an oyster. When a grain of sand gets into an oyster, the irritation sets the oyster to work producing a substance that creates a thing of beauty – a pearl.
Compare Marguerite’s story to Joe’s (not his real name). Superbly educated at a top prep school and university, Joe was well-positioned to create a satisfying life for himself. Yet, as a boy, Joe’s schoolmates had teased him and made jokes about his real name. To defend himself he became aggressive and developed a chip on his shoulder. The story he tells himself is that most people are jerks, and if he doesn’t look out for himself, no one else will. This is the lens through which he sees the world. It’s the story that creates the attitude that informs the decision-making that has lead Joe to spend his life making bad decisions, working at jobs far beneath his skill and talents.
What’s YOUR story?
• Think about your life in segments – high school, college, first job, etc.
• Consider a time when you struggled, when life was tough, when the world seemed to be dealing you a bum hand.
• What did you learn from that time period?
• Are these conclusions still valid for your life now?
• Do they support you in going forward? Or, are they holding you back?
• What new story can you tell? Or, is the story you are already telling one that’s moving you into a life you love?
In the comment section below, let us know what you found out! And if you are having trouble writing a new story, let us help you write a story that works…
Until next Tuesday.