Sometimes we feel powerless in our own life. We feel as though nothing we do is working in our favor. Life can feel like that. We have all had those moments, days or even weeks where life felt like – and was – a hard slog. Yet if we look more closely we can find that we still have power in our story, in our life.
We can find power in our story because we are the ones writing our story. It’s the distinction between events and story. The things that happen to us are often out of our control but we are in complete control of the story that we write around those events.
Think back to a time when you and someone else experienced an event that, when you spoke of it later, was remembered differently by each of you. Can you recall how surprised you were that they had a different recollection than yours? Right there, in that difference in recollection, is where story lives.
In order to make sense of the things that happen in our life we create a narrative, a story, around the event. This is what we all do. And that is where the gift of story lives. We get to choose what story we write. We get to choose what a given event means for us. That means we can choose to find the point of power in our difficult experiences.
When I was in my 20’s my best friend died of cancer. It was a devastating experience but within the devastation was the lesson of loving my friends and family deeply and consciously. I learned not to take the gift of them in my life for granted. I learned about courage and grace in the face of imminent death. I learned that I could survive that grief and come out the other side a stronger and more compassionate person. That was the story I chose to write because to do otherwise would be to disrespect the memory of my dear friend and the lovely soul she was.
I could have chosen to write a different story. A story of the unfairness of life that a young, kind, funny, smart and beautiful person was taken so soon. I could have written a story about how unfair it was that my beloved uncle had died of cancer just a few months before my friend’s diagnosis. I could have written a story of bitterness and anger at the loss of two people I loved so deeply.
In this case the choice was easy because it was so clear to me that to embrace bitterness would be the polar opposite of the response my uncle and friend would want me to have. But the choice isn’t always so clear. What about when someone has truly wronged you? What about when someone has intentionally done something that was damaging to you? How do you choose a different story then?
We choose a different story by recognizing that it is our choice. We choose a different story by understanding that we, first and foremost, will be impacted by our choice. Our happiness and our peace of mind are within our control.
Finding the power in our stories requires that we take the story apart and actively look for the lessons we can learn. We have to ask what can be difficult questions: What did I do here that I am happy about? What did I do that I regret and don’t want to do again? What lessons can I learn that will help me in the future?
In my case I learned to not leave things unsaid to those I care about. I learned that I can survive things I didn’t think were survivable. I learned that the power is in how I decide to hold my story, not in the events that create my story.
So when you find yourself struggling with an event that leaves you feeling out of control take a moment, take a breath – or several, and consider what your ideal response to the event would be. You aren’t trying to change the circumstances – if only we could. What you are trying to do is use the power of choice to get the best out of the event that you can.
As you write the story of what happened, be conscious about what pieces of it you wish wish to take going forward. Find the pieces that empower you and build your story on that foundation. Look for the opportunities to expand your capacity to love, to improve communication or to simply learn so that next time you make a better choice. Uncover the elements that will contribute to you being able to grow from what has occurred. Writing your story isn’t about changing the truth, it’s about finding the lessons we can learn and the places within where we are truly strong.
We often have no control over the things that happen to us but we have complete control over our response to events. Choose thoughtfully, create a story that enriches and expands your life. Create a powerful story that supports the highest vision you have for your life.
Omkari Williams writes, speaks, and coaches on story and creativity. You can find her at omkariwilliams.com