Our lives, like a good storybook has many chapters. Some chapters full of adventure, some full of sorrow. Some short and life altering and some long and flowing like a wide peaceful river. But at the beginning of every chapter there is one question that needs to be asked.
An author takes the time to plot out the story line. She has the bulk of the story marked out before she even puts one word on the page. Of course, as she writes, the story may take some unexpected twists and turns. Perhaps the author is afflicted with writer’s block or better yet, a new inspirations hits her. What ever the development, the main thread of the tale stays strong thorough the process.
We can take a lesson from this process by asking ourselves one simple but powerful question as we start each and every chapter of our own lives.
How do I want to write my life?
Sounds like a no brainer doesn’t it but survey back through the choices you have made in the past. How many were based on this question? How many times did you instead let life itself write for you?
Several years ago, when I realised that my life was entering a new phase, that was really the first time I consciously asked myself this question and you know what, I didn’t have a clue. I had spent most of my life either letting fate direct me or bowing to the needs and wants of others. So while asking myself how I wanted my life to be as I moved onto a new path was liberating and exciting, it also scared the hell out of me because it brought up a whole bunch of other questions as well.
The first thing I needed to do was give myself permission to be even thinking that I had a choice, that I could effect the plot of my own story. You may think that sounds ridiculous but how many times in your life have you put your own desires on the back burner because other people in your life told you they were stupid or unobtainable? How many times have you put your plans on hold because a loved one needed your time and energy more and how many times did you dare not whisper your plans because people your age or gender or social status just don’t do that kind of thing?
The second thing I had to get over was my fear of declaring my intentions. “I can’t do that, what if I fail! What will others think of me?” What I projected was what I thought would happen. How I thought others would react was in fact my own fears projected on my life. I was editing a story that hadn’t even been written.
And the third thing I had to allow myself to do was think outside of the box. Life has a habit of hemming us into a safe, neat little package. Instead of thinking I can’t do that, I needed to start thinking why not. It’s not just other people who have amazing life stories, I am an other too.
In the last few weeks I have encountered a couple of people who were on the cusp of a new chapter in their lives. One had the last chapter end with the passing of a loved one, one is entering retirement and for another the end of a marriage. Even through loss there was a sense in all of these souls of possibilities, excitement and transformation.
Now is the time, before their feet get firmly placed on a new path not of their own making to ask the question, “How do I want to write my life?”
If a new chapter in your life story has been thrust upon you, I would suggest keep the time line short. Perhaps project your composition out only 6 months to a year. You will be in transition and the chapter needs to act as a connector to the next story line. Use the time to just be and get use to this twist in the plot that is your life. Open yourself to new possibilities, explore, experience the new landscape. When you are ready, use your imagination and dream big dreams for yourself.
If you are like me and your life story is humming along nicely, I still encourage you to check in from time to time and ask yourself the question, “How do I want future chapters in my life story to be?” Project your plotline out to next year or two years, even five years out. Having long term goals is what keeps us focused on the big picture story and gives us something to work towards. Then when the plot twists of life happen you can adjust the narrative as needed and take your story from a drama to an epic saga.
You are the author, director and star of this tale. You may have not willingly participated in the unfolding of the story this far. You may have not even known you had the choice or knew you could direct the plot. But the past has been written, there is no editing, those chapters have gone to the printer.
There will always be unexpected twists, tragedies, comedy of errors, even romance as your story unfolds but it is up to you as to whether the final edition becomes a legend, an epic romance, even a fantastical adventure….. or just another dusty tome added to the great library of life.
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