The Narrative we have in Our Heads Vs. Who We REALLY Are

mocha momentsEveryone likes a good story. According to experts, 99% of all stories ever told can be categorized into seven basic plots: Underdog, Quest, Journey/Return, Rags to Riches, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth.

I recently discovered my primary storytelling type. If you want to discover yours, you can find out here at the Story Bistro, run by my friend  Tea (pronounced Tay’ah) Silvestre who is all about The Story. Telling them, listening to them and figuring out what they mean.

Mine is Quest.

The basic Quest story unfolds like this:

what's your story1. The Call: Life in some `City of Destruction’ has become oppressive and intolerable, and the hero recognizes that he can only rectify matters by making a long, difficult journey. He is given supernatural or visionary direction as to the distant, life-renewing goal he must aim for.
2. The Journey: The hero and his companions set out across hostile terrain, encountering a series of life-threatening ordeals. These include horrific monsters to be overcome; temptations to be resisted; and, probably the need to travel between two equally deadly `opposites’. These each end with a `thrilling escape, and the ordeals alternate with periods of respite, when the hero and his companions receive hospitality, help or advice, often from `wise old men’ or `beautiful young women’. During this stage the hero may also have to make a `journey through the underworld’, where he temporarily transcends the separating power of death and comes into helpful contact with spirits from the past, who give him guidance as to how to reach his goal.
3. Arrival and Frustration: The hero arrives within sight of his goal. But he is far from having reached the end of his story, because now, on the edge of the goal, he sees a new and terrible series of obstacles.

This is definitely me. I’ve had many dreams around being close to a goal or destination but simply unable to reach it because of terrain or mode of transport or lack of skill.

I think it serves us well to understand our story type. As Tea shares

Understanding which plot your business/brand story falls into can help you focus your marketing messages and storytelling efforts into a more cohesive whole.

What worries me is the narrative we weave around who we THINK we SHOULD be versus WHO WE REALLY ARE.

We are all after success, journeying toward something. If we’re not then we’re looking for something to journey towards and we find out HOW by looking at what others are doing in those areas that interest us. If writing is our thing, then we find ourselves delving into the lives of famous writers before us like Maya Angelou…wanting to find out what was her method…how often did she write…and at what time. For many years many young people wanted to “Be Like Mike” promulgated by the famous advertising campaign by Gatorade, using that very phrase.

Sean Blanda says

There are dozens of blog posts about Ben Franklin’s strict daily routine, advocating that we should follow suit. Writers love to point out how Maya Angelou made sure she wrote in a hotel room every day to help give her a safe space to work. A young Steve Jobs lived an extremely sparse possession-free lifestyle, and thousands of techies have attempted to emulate this no-nonsense, minimalistic living style.

This kind of hero worship can be a good thing, it can be a guiding light. But this has also given rise to the dramatic oversimplification of entire lives. Headlines like “8 Ways to Think Like Warren Buffett” and “The Socratic Method of Great Living” garner retweets and clicks but they create a terrible feedback loop of writers cherry picking moments from someone’s life, distilling it all down to a blog post or even a book, and then a willing reader to believe that advice is the key to success.

I think THE PRIMARY key to success is to know and understand yourself COMPLETELY.

Most of us don’t understand ourselves…not in the depth that we need to. Some of us have easy to see talents like a natural gift for writing, or playing a musical instrument or being good in a particular sport. Some of us talk about having a nose for business, a knack for puzzles, or a love for people. But that just begins to scratch the surface of our length and breadth.

There is only ONE YOU!

This means that you “do life” in a thoroughly unique way.

In the work I do, I use stories too…YOUR STORIES. Not make believe but stories from your life, that you tell, in your own words, about activities that you’ve enjoyed and felt you did well. When I analyze your stories I usually find a wonderful and consistent pattern in the way you function – the way you were DESIGNED to function.

I thought that once I did this work that individuals would be thrilled to find out how they were uniquely designed to function. But what I get instead is confusion. When I thought the information would bring a sense of confidence around one’s innate talents, what I got was more insecurity and the need to do something else…perhaps a short course or a seminar.

After stepping out of my own way what I realized was that people come to me with a preconceived version of WHO THEY ARE. The story they tell has been shaped by all their experiences: what people told them about who they were, what they were good at, what they should do and the careers they eventually pursued…so when I deliver this “new” information…it doesn’t fit well. They’re so used to “wearing” the story they’ve been telling themselves about themselves for so long that this “new” albeit authentic story is uncomfortable. It’s also not very exciting especially if you’ve been used to identifying yourself based on your career – WHAT YOU DO.

Now I ask people to sit with this new reality for a bit. Begin to try it on for size. Examine their lives to see how what is being revealed has been playing a part and shaping their choices and ways of being.

I think the biggest challenge is to get people to loosen their grip on WHO THEY THOUGHT THEY WERE and to open themselves up to the POSSIBILITY of WHO THEY ARE. That way they are more likely to see opportunities and ways of being in the world that they had not previously considered.

This work is not thrilling. We’ve grown so accustomed to having stuff done for us that  any kind of personal digging and excavation is met with our brains looking quickly for an easier way…a shortcut perhaps…

You are worth so much more though…

This may be the hardest work that you’ve ever done in your life but it’s so worth it. Maybe it’s not for everyone but if you’re reading this it’s definitely FOR YOU!

Sean Blanda sums it up nicely:

We are living in a complex world and the path to success and fulfillment isn’t a straight line, it’s a labyrinth in the dark. And we all have to find our own way, make our own mythology. It’s a lot harder than following a listicle, but isn’t it a lot more fun?

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What would your life look like if you could power your own success, never feel confused about what you need to do and never hesitate to do it?

  1. Do you have clarity around WHO YOU REALLY ARE?
  2. Are you being noticed for your contribution in your current role?
  3. Do you know WHAT you need to do to get the results you want?

Find out how much you really know about yourself…

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