The other day, I was listening to a Benjamin Hardy webinar, and he said something that really stuck with me since. He outlined a couple of things that influence the trajectory and quality of your life – things like your body, your brain, your environment. But there was one he mentioned that I found quite interesting, and that was the idea of your story.

What is the story you tell about yourself?

Stories are crucial to our humanity. As a species, we have evolved to process and transmit a ton of information in story form. From our earliest days in caves to modern day cineplexes, we have had stories at the core of our culture, society, and civilisation. Stories are how we connect, communicate, and understand our place i society as well as our history. Stories are how we pass on cultural norms, and form social bonds with one another. Stories are how we create meaning.

We are surrounded by and inhabit stories all the time. We have stories about our world, about our nations and their interactions with one another, stories about race, about community, about families. But there is the story that is uniquely important to us, shaping our selfperception, stirring our motivations and driving our actions. And that is the story of ourselves.

What is your story?

You might never really think consciously about it, but you can see the main plot points or elements of your story very clearly when you are asked, ‘so tell me about yourself‘. Every time I hear that question, the first thing I draw is a blank, like – ‘well…um… where the hell do I even begin?’

How do I define myself? How do I tell the story of me?

Who are you?

Usually, when I am faced with the question, I generally default to saying I am a designer. I have held that label and identity for so long, that even though it is not precisely accurate or complete, I still use it. As limiting and dated as it is, It just rolls off the tongue.

What are the words you use to describe yourself?

For most of us, we define ourselves around our economic roles or societal function. Do you define yourself around your work and what you do? Do you define yourself around your personality, or around your values? Maybe you define yourself around your family or tribe or nation.

But perhaps, the most important element of your story is this – is your story fixated on the past, or is it focused on the future?

The direction your story faces has a massive impact on how you view yourself, what you believe is possible, and how you move through life. You can focus on the past – on what you have done and who you have been. Your can latch on to your past achievements and accolades, your failures and missteps, or you can reach out for the future – your dreams, your vision, your allconsuming passion.

The past is important yes, to anchor us, to show us where we have been. But dwelling on the past too much will lock you in and hold you back. Even if you have racked up wins and have a string of successes to show for your life so far, holding on too tightly to that will eventually make you slack, become defensive, rest on your oars and quit pushing forward. And if your past is checkered or less than ideal, it can send you down a vicious spiral.

What if you framed your narrative with regards to the future? All of a sudden, you are not bound to what happened before, you create a blank canvas of possibility. You quit being reactive to previous experiences and begin to be proactive and decisive. It is not just about what you have done or what you are doing, it is about where you are going.

Where are you going?

Now you have to exercise imagination. You have to figure out what you want, what your values are, and what you want to create in your future. And commit to it, and tell your story around it.

When you begin to adopt a future-facing story, a couple things begin to happen.

It helps you let go of the past

We all have things in our rearview mirror that we are not proud of. We have mistakes we wish we could take back, missed opportunities, We’ve been through twists and turns we never saw coming. Embracing a story that focuses on the future, allows you to forgive and let go of those things. The past is done. It came. It went. We are here now. We are able to forgive ourselves for past mistakes, knowing fully well that your past does not equal your future and that we have the chance to write a brand new story starting from today.

It creates new options

When we are fixated on the past, we become limited. We are held back by what we have been and what we have done. It is hard to break out of it and imagine something new, to embrace new possibilities. So we default to our past story, and with every retelling of the story, we ingrain those ideas and patterns deeper and deeper into our brain. It can trigger a rut that keeps us stuck at best, or drags us down at worse. We are confined to the same routines and undesirable results.

When we focus on the future instead and tell our story around what we want to create and be, we become creative again. New things become possible, ideas and possibilities we would have never recognised suddenly come into view. It opens up uncharted waters for us to explore and discover a better life.

It changes our self-perception

A story that embraces the future weakens our old conditioning and rewires our brains, changing our perception and expectations of ourselves. The more future-facing we are, the more we are inspired to take new action, We do and embrace new things and are forced to grow. With this new narrative in mind, we realise that we are capable of more, that we must embrace and nurture this potential. We break old patterns and actually begin to visualise ourselves living the dreams we set out for ourselves. We create this new person and life in our minds and are subsequently pulled towards it.

Oh, but you might be thinking, this future facing story isn’t true yet. Wouldn’t I be lying to myself and others?

So what?

We are on a journey, and the journey itself is more than half the fun. We must speak things into existence and embrace new realities. We are marked by our relentless pursuit of a worthy goal. There will be haters, those who say that you are not it, that you should stop lying to yourself and just quit. There will also be supporters, those who believe, who see clearly what you only see dimly, those who will walk with and aid you in the journey to your new future.

Embrace the story. Everyone loves a good story anyway. With a clear vision, backed up with massive work, things will come together.

An exercise to help reframe your story

Who are you?

Write out your story. A quick 5-6 sentences in answer to the question ‘who are you?’

Now read through it and analyse it. How do you define yourself? Do you talk about your job, or relationships or family? Is your story more focused on the past, what you have done and how you have gotten here? Is there anything that tells us about where you want to go.

Now write it again. This time keep your vision and dreams in mind. Reframe your story. Take the best of where you have been and combine that with a clear statement of what your big dream is, what you are pursuing for the vision.

Doesn’t this new story fill you up with hope? Does it not make your heart sing, your chest puff out a bit more and your walk briskier. Try on this new story and read it to yourself every day for the next 30 days.

Tell this story when people ask ‘tell me about yourself‘, and see what it does for you.

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