If the stories we tell ourselves — particularly in hard times — make all the difference to our well-being and can save us from languishing in the trenches of life, then learning how to edit our personal narratives is a skill that I could certainly use.
We all know people who seem to believe in the PR version of themselves. I am not one.
By life stories I’m talking about the explanations we have developed for how things have turned out as they have.
My life stories include everything from how I came to live in London, why I’ve worked for the same company for the last 15 years, how my last relationship ended, why it is that I’ve been single since and the reasons I write non-fiction rather than the bodice-ripping tales of adventure that some people keep telling me would prove a smarter move.
Life stories are all about the why … the who, what, where & how are incidental, which means life stories are less about the details and more about the meaning.
We create them or borrow them from what people have told us in order to explain who we are — to others and to ourselves.
The trouble with most life stories is that we don’t notice them. They unfold and carry on inside of us influencing how we feel about ourselves and what decisions we make without our conscious permission to do so.
Let’s try a thought experiment — let’s just say that you get a call tomorrow from a headhunter who has you in mind for the best ever possible job you could wish to get. [I appreciate that a staggering amount of us have no idea what the job would be, but let’s pretend we do.]
The trick is this — in the interview you’re about to have with that headhunter only “the absolute truth” will do. Only the truth will get you the dream job. And by the truth, the headhunter means what you really deep-down believe about yourself and the life you’ve lived to date. He’ll want to know what sort of person you were at school, what you would consider the 3 most significant life choices you’ve made, why you made them and most importantly, what you fear about the future and why.
Odds are you’re going to feel a small bit of pressure in the hours between now and the life-changing interview. So it’s well worth giving some thought to what your answers might be to those questions … what life narratives start to crop up?
Mine are those I’ve mentioned above. What are yours?