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The Story of Your Life: A Leadership Lesson

The author holds an MFA in Creative Writing, is a produced screenwriter, essayist, blogger, and creative consultant in Los Angeles.

How Is Life a Story?

I would like to write a helpful essay in which the author crafts a leadership lesson on how life is itself a story. Though I'm writing here under a pseudonym, I have years of experience as a professional educator, author, screenwriter, and brand creative. I've devoted years to the study of leadership and communication hygiene and would like to pass on some of these ideas to you with the hope that they will give you a pragmatic perspective to better perform the life you want to live.

As communicative creatures, we have no choice but to live our lives through the interpretations of the meanings we assign to things, i.e. how we make the world meaningful. At root, we do this through how we think about things, and how we think about things becomes how we interpret things. Just listen to how you and your friends discuss a certain television show or political bit of news, especially if your opinions differ. The lesson here is that we are always already entrenched in our own thought, and the story of who we are will always and inevitably arise out of our thought.

If you want to lead your life and steer it where you want it to go, you have to get better at being in (and skillfully minding) the kinds of stories that take you there. There is no middle ground. Either how you are thinking about things is leading you in the direction you want or need to go, or it simply isn't. How you tell yourself the story of yourself or your organizations (your marriage, your business, your future, etc.), will inevitably direct how you perform your life to yourself and the people around you.

You are how you've told the story of your life, and you will continue to be the storyteller of your life. It is of crucial importance that you consider your role as the "master weaver" of your own life. From this fresh look, we can come to see the importance (the overwhelming importance) of storytelling and how we craft ourselves through our thoughts.

Weave, Keep Weaving

"Mind is the master weaver..." - James Allen

"Mind is the master weaver..." - James Allen

Think Through Your Stories

If, as James Allen once quipped, "Mind is the master weaver..." then how does this effect the stories of our life? Well, what Allen seems to be saying is that the mind will weave in whatever ways it does, always contingent on the stories (sprung from thoughts) that are shaping it to be what it must become.

People generally tend to accept the roles they are given in life. Instead of being a weaver, they see themselves as being not in control of their destiny. They would prefer to blame society or the economy or other people for their own shortcomings. This might work in the short-term, but it's still a certain kind of story with certain kinds of results. If you don't want to be tossed around by the vagaries of the culture, change your thoughts. Alter your way of thinking about things and the world around you will immediately alter.

If you want a different life, you have to be in a different story. If the story you're currently in is not the story you want or need to be in, you have to think-through a path on how to get there. In doing so, you're taking the first important step in guiding your mind to start weaving in a more fortuitous way that'll get you where you need to go. And if you don't know what story you should be in, start there and consciously put yourself on track. If not, someone is bound to come along and pull you onto their track.

The challenge you'll most likely face is that you're always relying on your mind to make sense of the stories you inhabit. In order to think-through to the new stories that you wish to inhabit, you have to shift the paradigm of your present story to the story that you want to live. You literally have to imagine from the point-of-view of what you currently are. This is no easy task. But, it's the task we are faced with and it's the task that any great leader knows, because if you're not re-shaping your stories to be who you know you need to be, or re-shaping your stories to get you where you know you need to be, you'll be a bit player in someone else's stories, a journeyman on someone else's journey?

Control your thoughts and they'll weave themselves where they may. Make sure that as they weave, you are choosing the design. A bit of secular wisdom from our own western Bible states, "Unless you believe, you will not understand."

It is not that we understand our stories first and then live them. No, we must believe the stories we live by in order to understand them. Someone who is not a believer in a particular religion will not understand that religion the same way that a believer does. Likewise, an Internet Marketer working through the design of a client's website, must believe that she knows how she can improve the performance of that website. And then she must persuade her client to understand her proposed changes. It all starts with the foundation of how you think about things. Once you've taken this to heart, you can monitor how ubiquitous it is. Think about it.

Thought Exercises on Telling Your Life Story

If our lives are always unfolding through the lens of the stories we inhabit (and which, in turn, inhabit us, then it makes all the difference how we carry on with our stories, always with the purview that if they aren't leading us where we need to be, then there's no one else to blame but ourselves. Here are some useful ways to consider this:

  • The world we experience is the interpreted world.
  • Learn to interpret the world in ways that are beneficial to your cause.
  • How you think about things will alter what you do.
  • Right thought is the foundation of life-change.
  • The better able you are to perform the story that you need to be in, the more people will accept you as a player in that story.
  • Who is crafting the story of "you?" Are you the director of your own story?
  • If not, what's the first (and third) step you have to take to regain the story?

Shoot for the Stars and Tell the Best Story of Your Life

the-story-of-your-life

The Complete Sum

A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts.

— James Allen

Your New Perspective

Your new perspective on your life should take into account how you tell yourself the stories that you do. It should think carefully about how you consider your past when you speak to yourself and to other people. This new (and more productive) perspective should always be taking into account the idea that, at heart, you are a storyteller, and that your thoughts are guiding you where they will go.

If you keep your thoughts true to your purpose, you will act in a purposeful way. If you forsake your purpose for the distractions of the day, you will become a distraction to your purpose. Think about it this way, if you wish to grow a certain flower, you must first plant the seed. Once planted, you must care for the soil and do whatever it takes to help that seed turn into the flower that it is destined to be. Once it takes root and blooms, it will become that flower and not another. You wouldn't plant one kind of seed and hope for a different kind of flower to bloom. That would be absurd. Then, why do you think that your life will change in any significant way if you hold to the thoughts that have brought it to where you don't want it to be?

Your life story will always be the sum of how its been told and how the telling determines what kind of trajectory and ending it will have.

If you believe that the stories you are telling yourself are working against yourself, change how you talk to yourself. This is not easy. You will have to believe the new story. You will have to live as if the new story is who you really are. And, in doing so, you will have to take the necessary actions (over and over) to live as if you are in that new (and better, more purposeful) story. It will take a lot of effort and practice. Will it be worth it? That depends on your purposes in life, and if you believe what has been put forth here today.

Living your life on purpose, with the understanding that you are the stories that you make meaningful, gives you the perspective to regain a sense of where you are going and who you are becoming. Yes, your life is a story (or a myriad of stories). It is worth your time to carefully consider not only where it currently stands, but in light of its current path, how the present story ends. If it is not where you want it to be, then change the story. In doing so, you will change your life.

© 2019 Jack Mahler

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