If you think about it, life is all about stories. The stories we tell others. The stories we tell ourselves. If you never thought of yourself as an author, it's time to challenge your thinking since you are. Each of us weaves stories all the time.
My favorite class in university was with the craziest professor who taught me so much and his lessons continue on. It was a mandatory class about Self and Meaning. I remember arriving to class a few minutes early, taking a seat and waiting for the Professor to arrive like everyone else around me. One guy stuck out to me since he was slobbering over a submarine sandwich while the rest of us tried to avoid making contact with him.
The class was supposed to start and there was no teacher so we started talking to each other asking whether we were all there for the same class. We were. And yet, there was no one there to teach us we thought. We started talking to each other creating plans of what we should do and whether we should leave or continue to wait. At that point, the guy finished eating, jumped up, smiled and told us to arrange our chairs in a circle. We all looked at him with complete disregard and questioned his authority. That was the first lesson and why he became my favorite teacher. He taught me to question and not accept the status quo.
His assignments were tough because they made us think and create. The one I want to share with you is when he asked us to write at 10-page paper on a conversation. We were supposed to randomly listen in on a conversation between two people and write about it. I was so frustrated by this one as I couldn't imagine what I would learn that would cover 10 pages that would also get me a good grade that the system required for me to graduate. Since that was the goal, isn't that always the case? Well, that was the story I told myself.
And that was my lesson. Imagine, that you had to do this assignment today. What would you learn by listening and observing two people in conversation?
It is quite amazing since it makes us realize that when two people have a conversation they are mostly sharing stories. It's an outlet when it is a dear friend and a continuation of a story of conflict when it is an argument filled with fear and pain. I love going on walks and overhearing conversations.
What if we could shift our stories?
We were conditioned by a formula of success. Here is part of the checklist:
- You have an education? Check
- You have good grades? Check
- You have a job? Check
- You are married? Check
- You have kids? Check
- You have that promotion at work? Check
- You have that great title so people respect you? Check
- You live in a great house/apartment? Check
- You can afford to buy yourself more and more stuff so you can keep up with everyone else? Check
- You have great friends? Check
- You take amazing vacations? Check
- Complete yourself from your own conditioning: "You... ?" Check
But what happens when you have checked this list and discover that you are successful but not fulfilled? Now what? What's the story you are going to tell yourself now? And of course, you couldn't possible share it with anyone else because you fear their judgment. We have been conditioned to build our cocoons when an increasing number of us are simply craving community. Today, we live in an open and connected world and yet so many struggle to create our new story, which is available to each of us.
Not only can individuals end a story and start a new one but businesses can as well. We can create our trusted communities in both realms if we can let go of the ones that no longer serve us. But do we find the courage to let go of the pain and trauma that our stories allow us to live in?
Here are some questions that helped me in my journey that I am sharing in the hope they could stir something inside you. When it comes to our stories, what if...
- We can see situations as easy instead of hard?
- Instead of telling ourselves "we can't do it," we were more gentle and said "let's try it"?
- We listened to our heart instead of making our minds work over time?
- We co-created instead of believing we alone, different and unique?
If we are the authors of our stories and each story has a beginning, middle and end, which stories no longer serve you and which ones do you want to start living today? It's always a choice. A new story is available to each of us.