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How You Tell Your Story Matters

Three years ago last month, my life took a dramatic turn. There was a sense for a number of years prior that something like this might happen; even still it was a major change. Everything shifted in a single decision. The years since have been spent knowing this truth in an experiential way.

“What happened?” you ask? If you’ve been following for the last few years, you might rightly guess that I’m referring to the transition from corporate America into solo-preneurship. It would be impossible to tell my story completely and accurately without including this event. It represents more than simply a job change. It has become, what a good friend calls, a life defining moment.

Life Defining Moments

Certainly you’ve had life defining moments of your own; probably more than one. It’s also likely that some of them have been beyond your control, or even quite painful. Regardless of the “what” or “how” associated with each event, they shape us and become part of our story.

Because this new path I’m on allows me to meet new people on a regular basis, sharing my story is a frequent occurrence. It is always a privilege to be able to share mine; even more so to hear someone else’s. Over the last three years, the way my story is shared has changed. Some of that is due to the passing of time, some due to contextual awareness. Recently, though, it became clear it was time to make another change.

During a recent meeting with my coach, this is what I brought to the table to work on: As I tell my story, I want it to be less about me and more about those who I am serving. There was something bothering me about how I was telling my story, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. By the time we were done, both the problem and the desired change became very clear.

Thinking Like Authors

As authors work to tell a story, they wrestle with the words to use and the ways to order the events of the various characters. They know who their characters are and they work and work and work until they find the best way to present them and their story to the reader. When they get it right, the readers let them know.

Like authors, we are constantly writing — telling  our own stories, if only to ourselves. Unlike authors, we don’t regularly work with them until they produce what we want. Rather, they become well rehearsed scripts that are memorized and repeated without critical thought. And often they don't serve who we really are or our purpose.

The Words Matter

You get to choose the words when you tell your story — both to yourself and to others. You are in effect an author. Perhaps you have two versions, the one you tell yourself (and believe) and the one you tell others (and hope they believe.) Or maybe you have just one version. Regardless, when did you last focus on the words you use, especially when you talk to yourself?

The other day I was talking to someone who was upset about something. In the big picture, it was a small thing, except that it wasn’t for her. The reason is because the story she was telling herself did not have room for mistakes — even a minor one such as what happened. Her internal “shoulds” — I should be like this or that — were demanding an unattainable perfection and didn’t account for the reality of humanness. As we explored the words she was using, the disconnect became obvious and the frustration subsided. Now with that awareness she has the chance to modify her internal story to allow for more grace.

The Events In Focus

You also choose the events in your story on which to focus. I’m not suggesting you ignore the negative or painful things. They happened and as such they are a part of the story. But the significance and emphasis you place on them is up to you. 

As I examined my own story telling, what emerged was the opportunity to reorder the sequence of events. The shift was subtle and still honored the whole picture, but it produced a significant change in how I felt. How you feel about your story has a huge impact on how you share it with others.

If the last three years have taught me anything, it is this: if it’s something I’m experiencing, there are many others who are experiencing it too. If this article resonates with you, maybe it’s time you examined the story you’ve written about yourself. 

How are the words you use when you tell your story making you feel? 

What events do you focus on, especially when talking to yourself? 

What changes do you need to make to align better with who you are and what you want? 

These are just a sample of the questions you can reflect on, if you’re up for the challenge. It’s not easy work, examining and refining the story you tell, but it may be the most beneficial work you can do for you and those you serve. 

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Categories: Attitude, Postive Thinking, LeadershipNumber of views: 191

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