Writing a new life story
Without even realising it we are all living our lives governed by scripts which we probably didn’t even know that we had. Some of these will have been inherited from our parents, others will be formed by our family and friend’s expectations of us. The course of our life, however, is governed mainly by our expectations of ourselves as we respond to the social, economic and cultural environment we live in. Many people get to a point in their life when they realise that they are not happy but they don’t really know why or what they can do about it. The thought of changing your whole life can feel overwhelming but the process of examining each aspect of it and asking yourself if it fits with who you are will help you make some small changes which could have big results. That’s what writing a new life story is all about.
What’s the story?
If you had to sum up your life to date in just one paragraph what would you write? Is the story one filled with passion, excitement and adventure or is it a sad story of loneliness, disappointment and unrequited love? There are many different options between these extremes and different genres – is your life a comedy, drama, or a tragedy? Doing this exercise will help you take an objective view of your life and decide whether you want to continue with the same plot line or turn the page and start a new chapter.
What are your main roles?
We are all playing roles every day, the role of worker, parent, citizen and friend are all important and most people can identify at least six primary roles they play which together make up their life and their sense of themselves as a person. What are yours? When you have identified your roles for each one ask yourself, am I proud of how I am fulfilling this role? Am I the parent/friend/partner I want to be? If the answer is no try to find areas where you could make changes so that you bring yourself more in line with how you would like to be in that role. Often how we are in a role, particularly roles like mum/dad, wife/husband, hasn’t been chosen by us, we have done what those around us did mainly our own parents or caregivers. By doing this exercise you can choose how you want to be and instead of being ‘good’ as defined by other people, you will start to be ‘authentic’ as defined by yourself.
What can you change?
There are lots of things in life that we simply cannot change but there are also some we can when we are ready. The most powerful thing we can change is the way we think about things. Are you an optimist or a pessimist? How you are isn’t set in stone, you can change your mind about how you think about things but it will take some conscious effort.
People who have had a painful past often become so attached to their sad story that is stops them from ever really enjoying life. A pessimist will use their experience as proof that life is unfair; people can’t be trusted or they will never be loved, for example. An optimistic person with exactly the same history may view their experience as something that made them stronger; taught them a valuable life lesson, or as something that helped them see what they really wanted from life. This person will be much more open to enjoying life and welcoming a new relationship just because they thought differently about things. Examine your history and see if there were valuable gifts in what seemed like awful situations and then practice thinking about them differently. It takes time but your life will be much happier as a result.
How does the story end?
Imagine your own epitaph, what do you want it to say? This might sound morbid but it is an important part of writing your new life script. It will give your life direction and purpose and help you feel motivated to make the changes which will enhance your life and relationships. This isn’t a dress rehearsal and none of us know when we will die so it is important that we live as fully and authentically as we can today so we don’t get to the end of life full of regret wishing we had done things differently.
“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” Maria Robinson
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