Each one of us is a novel writing itself in real-time.
Each of our lives is a continuous story building on what has happened in our past. This means that things that happened in the past and the way we frame them in our minds affects how we live today. If you take a look through your day, I think you’ll find that a lot of the things you do are a result of the story and roles you assign to yourself.
I’ll use my life as an example. I wake up early most mornings because I’ve assigned myself the role of being an early riser. During my day, I usually have some form of class or homework. This is because I’m a student that does his work. I usually exercise and meditate at some point during the day because I have the mindset of pursuing better physical and mental health. These are just some of the good values I identify with.
On the other hand, I also have some negative stories I tell myself. I often tell myself I’m not good enough to be around certain people. I see myself as quiet so I often avoid social interactions with people I don’t know without even thinking about it. This also leads to feelings of loneliness sometimes because I don’t know how to reach out to others. I also identify with being nervous and this probably causes me to be more nervous than I should be.
These characteristics are all a part of my story. They are the inner-narrative that drives many of my decisions without me consciously controlling those decisions and they likely arose from events prior. Many of the events that started me down this path likely began when I was a toddler. I no longer remember them, but that doesn’t mean they have no impact on how I live my life today.
Trying to understand the stories that created us and the people around us is very important. On many occasions, it forms the basis of empathy for ourselves and others.
We have to be compassionate toward ourselves and our decisions. We all have patterns that shape our day-to-day lives that were formed anywhere from days to decades ago. We can try our best to break these patterns and it might work out on the first try, but it also might not. If your goal is to avoid sugar for an entire week and you only get three days, that is still better than none. You can think that you have to start the process over or you can take the more positive view that you are three days closer to controlling your sugar consumption. That is a subtle way to frame your story in a way that makes you want to continue.
When we reframe a story, we give ourselves a chance to see new opportunities. If we think something that happened to us was the worst thing that could ever happen, we likely won’t notice the things we can do now that we couldn’t before. When we fail, we usually gain some skills along the way. We end up better than we began. When we lose a personal possession, we have a chance to find something even more valuable to fill its place.
Finding the positives of each situation can be hard, but it allows you to make the most of difficult situations and possibly emerge from those situations even stronger than you began.
Understanding the role stories play in how people act is just as important when you’re looking at other people. Other people have different stories and those stories are going to affect how they look at a decision. This is why you get clashing viewpoints where each side thinks their view is the obvious answer. We cannot simply remove our stories and approach each situation as a blank slate. Therefore, even when we attempt to be completely logical, we are still often affected by our personal story. This is not a bad thing, but it is something to be aware of.
You may not be able to fully comprehend the mindset that leads someone to make a certain situation but you can recognize that from their point of view it probably seemed logical. When you allow yourself to come to this understanding, you may find more opportunities to negotiate a solution that works for both sides.
I think attempting to understand someone’s story is a huge step toward a better world. I try to remember this every time I meet someone new and I hope they do the same for me. I don’t think many people approach a situation with the sole purpose of being mean just for the fun of it, it’s usually the result of circumstances or the belief that being mean will get them what they want. By understanding how their story is affecting their actions, we can approach them more peacefully and compassionately. We can be the water in a fiery situation.