Your Story is Your Life
What do I mean with ‘story’? I don’t intend to offer tips on how to fine-tine the mechanics of telling stories to enhance the desired effect on listeners.
I wish to examine the most compelling story about storytelling – namely, how we tell stories about ourselves to ourselves. Indeed, the idea of ‘one’s own story’ is so powerful, so native, that I hardly consider it a metaphor, as if it is some new lens through which to look at life. Your story is your life. Your life is your story.
When stories we watch in the movies of Federico Fellini touch us, they do so because they fundamentally remind us of what is most true or possible in life – even when it is a escapist romantic story or fairy tale or myth. If you are human, then you tell yourself stories – positive ones and negative, consciously and, far more than not, subconsciously. Stories that span a single episode, or a year, or a semester, or a weekend, or a relationship, or a season, or an entire tenure on this planet.
Telling ourselves stories helps us navigate our way through life because they provide structure and direction. We are actually wired to tell stories. The human brain has evolved into a narrative-creating machine that takes whatever it encounters, no matter how apparently random and imposes on it ‘chronology and cause – and – effect logic’. We automatically and often unconsciously, look for an explanation of why things happen to us and ‘stuff just happens’ is no explanation.
Stories impose meaning on the chaos; they organize and give context to our sensory experiences, which otherwise might seem like no more than a fairly colorless sequence of facts. Facts are meaningless until you create a story around them.
By ‘story’ I mean those tales we create and tell ourselves and others, and which form the only reality we will ever know in this life. Our stories may or may not conform to the real world. They may or may not inspire us to take hope – filled action to better our lives. They may or may not take us where we ultimately want to go. But since our destiny follows our stories, it is imperative that we do everything in our power to get our stories right.
For most of us, that means some serious editing.
To rewrite your story, you must first identify it. To do that you must answer the question: In which important areas of my life is it clear that I cannot achieve my goals with the story I have got?
Only after confronting and satisfactorily answering this question can you expect to build new reality – based stories that will take you where you want to go.
Your Life is Your Story
Your life is the most important story you will ever tell, and you are telling it right now, whether you know it or not. From very early on you are spinning and telling multiple stories about your life, publicly and privately, stories that have a theme, a tone, a premise – whether you know it or not. Some stories are for better, some for worse. No one lacks material. Everyone’s got a story.
And thank goodness. Because our capacity to tell stories is, I believe just about our profoundest gift. Perhaps the true power of the story metaphor is best captured by this seemingly contradiction: we employ the word ‘story’ to suggest both the wildest of dreams (it is just a story ……) and an unvarnished depiction of reality (okay, what is the story?). How is that for range?
The challenge? Most of us are not writers. That is what I intend to do here in this hero’s journey. First, explore with you how pervasive story is in life, your life, and second, to rewrite it.
Story is everywhere in life. Perhaps your story is that you are responsible for the happiness and livelihoods of dozens of people around you and you are the unappreciated hero. If you are focused on one subplot – your business – then maybe your story is that you sincerely want to execute the major initiatives in your company, yet you are restricted in some essential way. Maybe your story is that you must keep chasing even though you already seem to have a lot (even too much) because the point is to get more and more of it – money, prestige, power, control, attention. Maybe your story is that you and your children just can’t connect. Or your story might be essentially a rejection of another story – and everything you do is filtered through that rejection.
Story is everywhere. Your body tells a story. The smile or frown on your face, your shoulders thrust back in confidence or slumped roundly in despair, the liveliness or fatigue in your gait, the sparkle of hope and joy in your eyes or the blank stare, your fitness, the size of your gut, the tone and strength of your physical being, your overall presentation – those are all part of your story, one that’s especially apparent to everyone else. We judge books by their covers not simply because we are wired to judge quickly but because the cover so often provides astonishing accurate clues to what is going on inside. What is your story about your physical self? Does it truly work for you? Can it take you where you want to go in the short term? How about ten years from now? What about thirty?
You have a story about your company, though your version may depart wildly from your customer’s or business partners. You have a story about your family. Anything that consumes our energy can be a story, even if we don’t always call it a story. There is the story of your relationship. The story of you and food, or you and anger, or you and impossible dreams. The story of you, the friend. The story of you, your father’s son or your mother’s daughter. Some of these stories work and some of them fail. According to my experience, an astounding number of these stories, once they are identified are deemed tragic – not by me, mind you but by the people living them.
Like it or not, there will be a story around your death. What will it be? Will you die a senseless death? Perhaps you drank too much and failed to buckle your seat belt and were thrown from your car, or you died from colon cancer because you refused to undergo an embarrassing colonoscopy years before when the disease was treatable. Or after years of bad nutrition, no exercise, and abuse of your body, you suffered a fatal heart attack at age fifty – nine. ‘Senseless death’ means that it did not have to happen when it happened; it means your story did not have to end the way it ended. Think about the effect the story of your senseless death might have on your family, on those you care about who you are leaving behind. How would that story impact their life stories? Ask yourself, Am I okay dying a senseless death? Your immediate reaction is almost certainly, “No!, of course not!
Unhealthy storytelling is characterized by a diet of faulty thinking and, ultimately, long – term negative consequences. This undetectable, yet inexorable progression is not unlike what happens to coronary arteries from a high-fat, high-cholesterol diet. In the body, the consequence of such a diet is hardening of the arteries. In the mind, the consequence of bad storytelling is hardening of the categories, narrowing of the possibilities, calcification of perception. Both roads lead to tragedy, often quietly.
The cumulative effect of our damaging stories will have tragic consequences on our health, engagement, performance and happiness. Because we can’t confirm the damage our defective storytelling is wreaking, we disregard it, or veto our gut reactions to make a change. Then one day we awaken to the reality that we have become cynical, negative, angry. That is now who we are. Though we never quite saw it coming, that is now our true story.
We enjoy the privilege of being the hero, the final author of the story we write with our life, yet we possess a marvelous capacity to give ourselves only a supporting role in the ‘storytelling’ process, while ascribing the premier, dominant role to the markets, our family, our kids, fate, chance, genetics. Getting our stories straight in life does not happen without our understanding that the most precious resource that we human beings possess is our energy.
It is our storytelling that drives the way we gather and spend our energy. Stories determine our personal and professional destinies. And the most important story you will ever tell about yourself is the story you tell to yourself.
So, you would better examine your story, especially this one that is supposedly the most familiar of all. Participate in your story rather than observing it from afar, make sure it is a story that compels you. Tell yourself the right story – the rightness of which only you can really determine, only you can really feel – and the dynamics of your energy change. If you are finally living the story you want, then it need not – it should not and won’t – be an ordinary one. It can and will be extraordinary. After all you are not just the author of your story but also its main character the hero. Heroes are never ordinary.
In the end your story is not a tragedy. Nor is it a comedy or a romance or a thriller or a drama. It is something else. What label would you give the story of your life, the most important story you will ever tell. To me that sounds like a hero’s journey.
End of story.
What Can I Expect?
Here’s an outline of The Heroine’s Journey.
FRIDAY: OLD STORIES
- The Power of your Story
- What is Your Story?
- Your Heroine’s Journey
- How Faithful are You as Storyteller?
- Is It Really Your Story You are Living?
- The Private Voice
SATURDAY: YOUR NEW STORY
- A Quest is Never Forgettable
- They Lived Happily Ever After?
- The Three Rules of Storytelling
- The Four Story Scenario’s
- They Lived Happily Ever After
- Do You Have the Resources to Live Your Best Life?
- Indoctrinate Yourself
- The Story Effect
- Your New Story
- The Premise of your Story. The Purpose of your Life and Art
- The words on your tombstone
- You ultimate mission, out loud
- The Seven Great Plots
- The Twelve Archetypal Heroes
- The One Great Story
- Questioning the Premise
- Lining up
- Flawed Alignment, Tragic Ending
- The Three Rules in Storytelling
- Write Your New Story
SUNDAY: TURNING STORY INTO ACTION
- Turning your story into action
- Story Ritualizing
- The Storyteller and the art of story
- The Power of Your Story
- Storyboarding your creative process
- They Created and Lived Happily Ever After.
About Peter de Kuster
Peter de Kuster is the founder of The Heroine’s Journey & Hero’s Journey project, a storytelling firm which helps creative professionals to create careers and lives based on whatever story is most integral to their lives and careers (values, traits, skills and experiences). Peter’s approach combines in-depth storytelling and marketing expertise, and for over 20 years clients have found it effective with a wide range of creative business issues.
Peter is writer of the series The Heroine’s Journey and Hero’s Journey books, he has an MBA in Marketing, MBA in Financial Economics and graduated at university in Sociology and Communication Sciences.
IS THE HEROINE’S JOURNEY FOR YOU?
- You are a creative professional who is interested in developing yourself, your teams, and your organization.
- You are aware that there are no quick fixes. Learning is a journey that works when you are fully committed to it. A guide like Peter de Kuster can bring awareness and help you navigate, but in the end it’s you who is in charge of your growth.
- You want to learn more about how to tell yourself a more powerful story, learn about blind spots, and get feedback.
- You are curious and want to engage in an interactive learning journey with Peter de Kuster.
- You are motivated to work in-between journeys on yourself (e.g. working on questions that will help you develop new storytelling, mindsets, skills, and behaviors).
WHAT’S YOUR QUEST-ION?
The Heroine’s Journey is all about your development. To make the most out of your journey with Peter, we ask you to prepare topics to work on with him. These topics can serve as a starting point for further in-depth exploration.
One Day Journey for EUR 1,200 (excl. VAT)
Two Day Journey for EUR 2,150 (excl. VAT)
Three Day Journey for EUR 2,950 (excl. VAT)
BOOK THE HEROINE’S JOURNEY
Who can sign up for The Heroine’s Journey?
Creative professionals who wish to improve their storytelling, mindset(s) and develop their leadership skills.
What language do we speak in the journey?
Can I bring my own topics?
Yes, you get to choose your own topic.
Are journeys confidential?
Yes. Peter will not share anything that is discussed in the journey.
Where will the journeys take place?
Sessions will take place travelling with Peter a world city like Paris, Rome, Florence, Barcelona, Amsterdam, London, Antwerp, Berlin, Madrid, New York, Venice.
How do I sign up?
Send Peter an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
How do I pay?
After you booked The Heroine’s Journey by sending an email to Peter you will receive an email with info how to pay.
How do I book and reschedule a journey?
Once we’ve received your payment, our Program Coordinator will book your journey. She will also support you with rescheduling journeys if needed.
What is your cancellation policy?
Individual journeys can be postponed up to one week before the journey.