How to Change Your Life by Changing Your Story

How to Change Your Life by Changing Your Story

Writer and poet, Annie Dillard, said: “How we live our days is how we live our lives.” I like to think of our lives as stories, and most importantly – we are each the author of our own story. Whether we know it or not, every day we continue to write pieces of our manuscript, based on how we show up to life. So, the question then becomes: How satisfied are you with how you’re living your days? Because if something is not quite right, it’s up to each of us to change it.

One woman’s story: Struggling to find purpose in life amid the pandemic

One of my sweet clients (I’ll call her Julie) is an executive for a major corporation here in the Minneapolis area. In normal life, pre-pandemic, she was used to going to the office and being immersed in work and meetings all day, while her three school-age kids were at school. Then at the end of a long day, she’d pick up the kids from their after-school program and engage in evening family time.

When the pandemic hit, Julie was catapulted into a world she had no idea was possible. Suddenly, she was working at home, without the inspiration and camaraderie of her co-workers surrounding her, and her life became void of daily cherished routines. The lives of her three kids were simultaneously turned upside-down and they, too, were home from school, attempting this new gig we now call ‘distance learning’.

In addition to Julie’s role as a full-time executive, she now had full-time: mom, teacher, babysitter, family overseer, and house manager added to her already maxed-out job responsibilities. She was overwhelmed, burnt out, and at the end of her rope.

On a coaching session one day, I asked Julie the question that seemed to be a game-changer: “Down the road, when you look back on this past year – what is the ‘story’ you want to tell about how you showed up to life?” While she wasn’t immediately sure, she said she’d been telling co-workers, friends, and family that “This is so hard, I’m exhausted, and don’t know if I can do it anymore.” When I asked how it felt to tell that story, she responded by saying that it was as though she was claiming those words as her story and her truth…and it certainly wasn’t what she wanted to be remembered for. In conversations with others, she said she felt like a victim, lost, and hopeless about the future.

The power of re-framing and telling a new story

I always tell clients that it’s imperative to be “real” with and honor how you’re feeling. It’s essential to not deny those feelings or sweep them under the rug. At the same, it’s vitally important to be mindful of the story you choose to tell. Because the more you speak those tough feelings (overwhelm, exhaustion, lack of self-purpose and direction, etc.) to others – or to yourself – the more it actually becomes your story.

So I asked Julie what would happen if she still honored her important feelings, while also telling a different story? I had a hunch it would give her the backdrop of a more fulfilling life and positive mindset to step into.

Without hesitation, her energy shifted. We were on the phone, but I could feel her posture straighten up; when she spoke, I could sense the lightness in her voice vs. the prior heaviness. Something lit up for her and she said that in the future when she looks back on this past year, she wants to tell others all about how she was present for her kids. How she set aside special alone-time with each of her girls. How she was a role model for them in navigating chaos and uncertainty. And how she maintained a positive mindset and remained a source of light to her family and co-workers.

Taking action to make your life a story worth telling

Julie stepped up and got to work! She posted a big calendar on the wall that highlighted dates with each of the kids, so they could visually see and feel comfort in an upcoming fun event with their mom. She also scheduled time for herself each week to recharge her own batteries so she could be even more present. Julie actively worked to refocus her life. She started telling a different story in her daily interactions – one that uplifted her and felt good vs. the story she had been telling that drained her even further.

In a follow-up email, Julie said that now when someone asks how she’s doing, she replies: “While it’s been tough, this has been a wonderful new opportunity for me to shift gears and fully focus on my relationship with my girls. I’ve always dreamed of more family time, and we’ve got that now! We’re growing closer and I’m so grateful for life’s open space to create new memories that we’ll all cherish.”

She went on to say that by simply telling a different story…she is living a different story.

To date, Julie has entered an art contest with her oldest, gone snow-tubing with her middle girl, and made a cake with her youngest. I don’t know about you, but this fills my heart.

See the difference when you tell a new story? :)

Don’t like the story you’re telling? LifeShine can help you change it!

What’s the story YOU want to tell? Sometimes it’s hard to see your life objectively and figure out a way to refocus your life when you’re right in the middle of it, immersed in the details. Life Coaching can guide you to clarify, flesh-out, and define the story you want to tell while creating an action plan to make it happen. Make your life a story worth telling.

Read other incredible stories from the inspiring faces of LifeShine and how they dared to claim their story and live their days in a way that mirrors how they want to live their lives.