We all love a good story. One where we know the beginning and progress toward a hopeful ending.
However, we don’t need to know all the middle bits before we start. In fact, adventure is part of the experience. If we knew everything, it wouldn’t interest us or hold our attention.
Thinking about how we find our voice and change the conversation, I realised that our own story is crucial.
Without our sense of who we are, we’re just copying someone else. It’s shallow and empty. We need to know why the change we want to see is so important to us.
As a listener, we know if it’s missing because what we encounter fails to resonate and connect. It doesn’t ring true.
We also know it ourselves, being aware of the tell-tale signs of struggling to find the right words or actions. Being fearful that we might get it wrong. Why? Because it’s not essentially us – it’s someone else’s story.
Fine. But this is deep water and how do we navigate it?
Currently, I’m working with five questions that may help us explore our story. Try them out – they are not in a defined order – and let me know how they land with you.
“Who were you before someone told you who you should be?“
I love this question and know it’s one we have to sit with for a while.
Whilst most of us probably haven’t thought about it before, it does have a distinct, familiar ring. Like it’s been waiting for our attention for some time.
Perhaps think about those in your life who have told you who you should be. They also may have indicated what that looks like in terms of what you should do and how you should behave. Subtly or not so subtly.
Note where this jars. Why is that?
Also, recognise those times when people have affirmed you and it resonated. It felt right. What did that release in you?
Does this take you closer to the “you-ness“ of you?
Is there anything that needs to be unwrapped further? And what does that look like?
“Reflecting back over your life, what are the moments you are really proud of?“
Frederick Buechner, theologian and writer, talks about vocation as “the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.“
Yes, this is dramatic language, but you get the point!
Identify those occasions when you felt deep joy and satisfaction? What do you notice about them? Are there some common threads?
You might also share some of your “prouds“, as Shawn Askinosie calls them in Meaningful Work, with someone else. You could be pleasantly surprised by what they notice.
We tend to think people need rescuing from their pain. Yes, if this is violence or injustice that is preventable, then we do need to ask that question.
But the kind of life-throws-at-you sort of pain is often what shapes us. It is part of who we are. Our challenge here is to keep our hearts open, rather than putting up the barricades and letting it fester.
Remembering that diamonds are created from carbon, under extreme pressure…
“What happened to me in the crucible of pain that has shaped me for good?“
So what are you holding in your hands or your heart that few others will ever experience? Is this part of – or at least a clue to – your story?
“What is the you-shaped hole?“
Or to paraphrase Rob Bell, who I’m sure paraphrased others… ‘Being open to your role in the ongoing creation of the world.’
Only you can be you. And you have a distinctive contribution to make. You just might not have named it. Yet.
So what is the story you want to create and what role do you need to take in order to make it happen?
Stop and think about what is distinctive about the way you want to fulfil your role. What stirs your curiosity as you reflect on this?
“What pushes your buttons?“
Passion and sensitivity are close cousins. The things that frequently trigger our emotions are useful indicators. And they are different for each of us.
These aren’t necessarily the big things, and they might be a reflection of our own internal stuff. However, over time patterns emerge, but we don’t always notice them.
And then we do…
What are your patterns of emotional reaction and response? What’s that about, and what you need to do with it?
Sometimes others we are close to can see this more clearly, because they aren’t caught up in the emotion. Ask them – this might be a clue to your story.
There are some amazing quiet disruptors out there. People who inspire and provoke us to find our stories, and make the kind of difference we were created for.
People like Shawn Askinosie – a criminal lawyer turned chocolate maker or Blake Mycoskie who started Tom‘s shoes and the whole One for One movement. Or Bréne Brown who found her voice speaking with vulnerability on shame. And Bernadette Jiwa, who really understands stories…
And you. You are an amazing person and I have the privilege of seeing how a number of you are inhabiting your story and emerging into new areas.
And for all of us: what is important enough for us to step out of our comfort zone to create the story we want to see?
Thanks for reading
Personally, this is been on the challenging end of the spectrum. But we don’t get to develop our craft when it’s all plain sailing!