We all have a story that we tell ourselves and the world about ourselves and although many of the facts are true, I’m beginning to realize that there’s also a lot of room for interpretation. Two people can interpret the same situation in completely different ways. And we don’t always see ourselves accurately either. In qualitative research, narratives (stories) are often used to help understand someone’s experience but I think we can use them to help understand ourselves and create the lives that we want through lifecrafting.
Lifecrafting is a term to describe intentionally creating the life that you want. I think there are many caveats to this (e.g. not everyone can work a 4 hour work week or make a million dollars, though perhaps you can do both by trying to convince other people that they can). That`s not to say lifecrafting isn`t useful but I think it is more about wanting the life that you have and making the most of the cards you are dealt than achieving anything and everything you decide you want. You can`t choose everything in your life but you can intentionally seek out opportunities to learn and grow, to share joy, and to develop positive relationships with other people.
I think narratives are another tool to help us on our path. Stories are malleable and sharing them with others helps give us perspective and make meaning in new ways. I think we can potentially use narratives to help us turn our “scars into stars” by looking at our own story through a new lens or even torching the stories that are unhelpful. By creating new meanings out of old stories, we change how we see ourselves, helping us to create the lives that we want.
Ideas for how to do this:
1. Tell your story. Write it down, tape record it, or say it aloud. Lay it down in rhyme if that’s more your style. Sharing can be really helpful since different people will bring new perspectives that you may not have considered (possibly one reason why support groups and cognitive behaviour therapy are helpful).
2. Look for main ideas. How do you see yourself? What labels do you use? What are the significant events and people and what do they mean to you?
3. What have you learned or gained from your experiences? Are you stronger? More compassionate? Try to reframe negative experiences by finding the gems in there.
4. Think about what you want your story to be and start driving your life bus that way. If you think someone else is driving your bus, get in the driver’s seat! A map helps too (especially if you have a poor sense of direction like I do). Most importantly, fill your bus with awesome people and celebrate life along the way.
Have a wonderful day!