Living a better life story

“Look at me, Opi,” Alexis cried. “I’m Rapunzel.” With that, my granddaughter twirled around in a circle — the long and colourful ribbons she had tied in her hair wrapping around her body. She stopped to study the situation.

“The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story and writes another.”

— James Matthew Barrie, Scottish dramatist and novelist

“Look at me, Opi,” Alexis cried. “I’m Rapunzel.”

With that, my granddaughter twirled around in a circle — the long and colourful ribbons she had tied in her hair wrapping around her body. She stopped to study the situation.

“This is often an issue with long hair,” she said. “That and washing it.”

As children we comfortably moved in and out of fantasy stories, adopting them in incredible detail before discarding them for the next. As is often the case, children can teach us an important lesson: sometimes we need to be just as willing as they are to change the stories we’re living in.

Whether we acknowledge it or not, our life is driven by our story. It precisely follows a script that we’ve written for ourselves or allowed someone else to write on our behalf.

Our “story” here is really nothing more than our belief system — the set of beliefs we have about ourselves and how we fit into the world around us: who we are, what our abilities are, what our goals should be.

We strengthen our beliefs — support our story — by subconsciously watching for circumstances that support those beliefs, and by creating experiences that are in harmony with them. This subconscious strategy can make it extremely difficult to recognize our beliefs at work — or allow us to recognize that we can change them.

Think about your life. If it were a story would it be a romance, an action/adventure or perhaps a drama? Maybe it would be one of those heartbreaking stories with an ending that makes you want to toss the book across the room.

If so, ask yourself why you have written such a tragic ending.

People who write tragic stories for themselves, for example, tend to emphasize their tragedies.

Everyone experiences tragedy, but someone with a tragic life story will immediately see each tragedy as further support for the truth of that story, and will even embrace circumstances likely to have tragic outcomes, because those outcomes are a comfortable fit with the larger life story.

Perhaps you feel out of control of the entire story, so also examine what role you are playing. Maybe you’re the faithful sidekick or perhaps an extra, a non-descript throwaway character lost in the crowd. If you’re not the protagonist in your story, the main character around whom the plot revolves, then a serious rewrite is in order. You were meant to play the leading role in your life story, to be a responsible individual who takes ownership of his or her life.

But if you are the protagonist, then why would you write such an unhappy ending? Why would you write yourself as the victim, and not victor? This comes back to your subconscious belief system. Somehow you developed the belief that unhappiness is what’s coming to you.

Words are powerful and many of the words in our stories were provided to us while we were growing up. If you were told you were smart, capable and able to accomplish anything, you probably would have written a glorious story for yourself. More than likely you were told something far less empowering and, as a result, life became an unhappy struggle. If that’s the case, you need to throw out your working draft and write a new, empowering and inspiring story for yourself.

The amazing thing about the human spirit and mind is the ability we have to transcend our past and rewrite our story. A story where we — the protagonist — are able to conquer adversity in whatever form it might take: physical, emotional or psychological.

I know, you’ve expended a great deal of effort into writing your story but it’s unlikely to become a best-seller. Besides, the ending is no longer acceptable. Put a fresh sheet of paper on the table or open a blank page on your computer and get started. This is a new day and it’s time for a new story — an amazing empowering adventure.

As you’re writing this new story, consider the obstacles your main character might encounter on the journey to a new you. It may be judgmental friends or family, financial woes, the fear of judgement or personal doubt. Write yourself as the victor in each of these situations.

Allow your new character the courage and humility to ask for help. It may surprise you, but most people are quite happy to help. Only fear of judgement and the ego can hold you back. A character possessed of both courage and unwavering faith in a successful outcome will always push forward shattering old barriers and accepting new challenges on the road to victory.

Ensure your new character has a strong support network of friends and associates — people who will build them up rather than tear them down. Create accountability and a solid support system for those times when life gets tough and old storylines begin to assert themselves.

Set a specific timeframe for the unfolding of your new story. Track your progress. Break this new story into chapters and celebrate each victory at every stage of the journey.

Finally, believe in your new story wholeheartedly. Be willing to invest as much faith into your new story as you did into the old. Remember, you were unwavering in your belief the old story was true. You made it a powerful reality. This new story is worthy of your best effort.

“We are shaped by our thoughts,” declared the Buddha. “We become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”

What must you do for this new story to become true?

Murray Fuhrer is a self-esteem expert and facilitator. His new book is entitled Extreme Esteem: The Four Factors. For more information on self-esteem, check the Extreme Esteem website at www.extremeesteem.ca.

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