Story Thinking – A tool to finding your Life’s Purpose

I’ve never been one to think much about the past:

  • It wasn’t common in my family. My German parents didn’t talk much about their past, likely because of how difficult it was, or because of the guilt of being associated such a horrific political history.
  • In my twenties and thirties I spent what felt like hundreds of hours in therapy rehashing the past – no sense beating a dead horse.
  • We are often told not to dwell in the past, as it can’t be changed.
  • I’ve generally not seen any value in it. I’m tend not to be very sentimental, sometimes to a fault.

This seemed to be okay, especially with the new trend of being mindful, being in the moment, being present.

I’ve also never thought much about the future. I’m not sure why not, I guess just not wired that way. My lens into the future was about 3-6 months; I’ve tended to be rather spontaneous, letting life take me where it takes me.

But I’ve always felt a bit adrift, unable to ‘find’ myself, unsure of who I really was, what I should set out to do with my life. And as cerebral as I am, that’s kind of dangerous. I would overthink my way into any one of many directions, broad and deep, without ever gaining any clarity.

In recent years there is growing encouragement to find your passion, that you can accomplish anything you want as long as you are clear with your vision and focus on that one big thing. Accomplishment, productivity, excellence is all within reach, but it depends on you getting really crisp on your purpose.

There are many books and podcasts that emphasize this as the critical first step to accomplishing anything you want  – first, they say, you need a vision.

But how do you get that vision? That’s the tough part and I’ve struggled with finding helpful advice just how to find it and define it. It’s more than just listing what you are good at.

I’m an avid listener of life-hacking podcasts and was happy to come across an episode of The Life-Optimized Show that addressed exactly my need and offered an intriguing solution – look at your past. In fact, don’t just look at it, but really dig into it, really understand it. Understand your story.

Your story, explains Shawn Phelps, is a powerful tool in guiding you to your vision. Your story defines you and provides clues to who you really are, what you really want to and can become.

Your story is a signal; with it’s highlights and lowlights it illuminates your potential super powers and offers clear markers as to where it your life journey can take you. It’s your map.

That same day I started looking back on my history and I realized that my 20 year old self had the same questions, interests and drives as my 40 year old self, and maybe I should take a closer look at those questions and interests and take them a bit more seriously, because obviously they aren’t going away. Maybe that vision has been there all along, I’ve just ignored it because I got caught up with signals from others, instead of from myself.

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I’m excited now to take the time to tell the story, and listen to myself tell the story; to understand the Setting and the Turning Points, and then own the Character Arc – that direction that I can go in as a result of what I’ve learned, the mistakes I’ve made, the adventures I’ve have had.  It’s my story; going along with that story will take me where I’m supposed to go; if I look at the story line, the vision will become clear, and my future road map and journey line will be apparent.


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