originally posted on Monday, November 14, 2011
Our lives are made up of numerous events. We tell ourselves stories about these events. The way we journey through life has much to do with the way we tell ourselves our stories.
Pick a sad story. Pick a really sad, tumultuous event in your life. Tell it to yourself, or to someone who will listen.
Or write it down:
27 years ago this month, my father died “suddenly” at the age of 51. He suffered from alcoholism, mental illness, uncontrolled high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
I was 26 years old, the oldest of 7, married and pregnant with my second child, and lived over 700 miles away from my family.
My mother hadn’t worked since I was born. My youngest sister was 12.
There was no savings and only enough insurance to bury my dad.
It felt devastating.
Now, take the same story. Tell it again. This time, find the peace, the positives, even the humor, in the telling:
At my dad’s wake, the line of people went out the door and down the street.
Person after person told us how often our dad made them laugh! Some of them told his jokes and stories and began to laugh and cry at the same time.
These people went out of their way to tell us stories my father told them about us. How proud he was of us; how much he loved my mother.
On the way to the funeral, as the limo pulled away from the family home, we noticed a single bottle of beer standing in the center of the sloped lawn, Dad’s favorite. We told ourselves Dad had visited the night before and left evidence. We became giddy with laughter.
Now, tell the story in a manner meant to inspire others:
My mother went back to work. At the wake, the wife of my HS boyfriend, who I barely knew, asked me how she could help. I told her my mother needed a job. She found her one!
My 25 year old sister, who was enjoying her single life and quiet apartment, moved back home and paid rent.
Everyone pitched in as they were able. My mom didn’t spend one day on public assistance.
Mom worked over 20 years. She saved enough money to travel extensively with her girlfriends.
As I came close to the age she was when my dad died, I understood better what her emotions might have been. It was like being pulled under the rug. So, I asked her about that time. I was afraid to ask, afraid to hear what she would say. What she said was that she’s had a good life since then. They may have been the most soothing words I’ve ever heard. A good life? I knew how hard it had been for her. Yes. A good life! She chooses to see it that way.
27 years have passed. My family is mindful about celebrations and embraces laughter. We aren’t quiet laughers. We’re the kind who double over, find it hard to breathe, figure we may lose bladder control. That’s us. There have been marriages, 10 grandchildren, and a cohesion among us that is unbreakable, despite our many differences of opinion on social, religious, parenting, and political issues. We love one another and we say so.
Story can be used effectively in all parts of our lives. In business, pick the latest sale that fell apart, the project that went awry. Tell it in its gory, irritating detail.
Then, tell it again. What went right? What were you or the team proud of?
Then, tell it a 3rd time. What will you do differently? What changes will you implement?
Coaches work consistently on conscious perspective with clients.
Choosing a resourceful perspective allows for growth.
What’s your story? There are so many.
How can you honor yourself and your stories by telling each from a different perspective?
*Swahili, translates ‘I am grateful’