Who Are You?
And how does your answer to that question affect your future? The words we use to describe ourselves, the world, and the constant overlap of the two play a profound role in our experience. They are our story, and they become our life. Your Storied Life explores the exceptional potential of the human mind and the power that we have as humans to understand, utilize, and direct it.
An Overview in 3 Videos
The overarching framework of YSL can be gained by watching the following 3 videos.
An Introduction to YSL
The ‘So What?’
Stories in Reality and Identity
The idea of a Storied life shows up pervasively in human change. It is the core of most modes of therapy, life coaching, and philosophical understanding. Today, it is showing up increasingly in scientific domains—from psychology to educational theory to anthropology to wellness to therapy—and has been recorded at least since stoicism, 300 BCE.
“Others are responsible for what they do, but we are the source of our reactions to it. This doesn’t mean that someone’s reactions are inappropriate, but that they’re shaped by that person’s own mind.” – Rick Hanson, Ph.D.
All of these people are speaking to the same thing, under different names.
We call it: Your Storied Life (YSL)
Think Of It This Way…
Our physical beings contain hardware (brain, organs, etc.) with which we experience the world. We are continually taking in information – more than we can handle. We filter it – taking what is ‘important’ and leaving the rest.
Then, with little chunks of information throughout our life, we encode those chunks with plotlines, meaning, narratives, labels… stories. Our story is the software with which we form connections and encode information. It allows us to make sense of the world – to create our unique ‘reality’ that we call life.
“I can’t juggle” vs. “I can’t juggle yet”
“I am a failure” vs. “I am learning”
“You are annoying” vs. “I haven’t connected with you yet”
Often, we write stories without awareness of our writing them. We mislabel them ‘the truth’, which is highly disempowering. To acknowledge the fact that ‘we’ are the hardware, the software, and the story reconnects us to our agency and response-ability in life. We transform from the characters in our story to the authors of it.
Do any of these scenarios resonate with you?
“After failing once, I grew up saying – and thinking – I can’t juggle, and never tried. One day, I realized that it just took practice and picked up three rocks. A couple of hours later, I was juggling.”
“My mom made me go to camp – literally put me in the car, screaming. I said I would hate it and that it sucked. It did, until – getting there – I decided that maybe it didn’t. It was a formative experience of my life.”
“My first thoughts of Terry were ‘uptight and angry.’ I avoided her for weeks. One day, we were put in a group together, and I saw her effort, support, humor, and passion come alive. We’ve become close friends.”
What allowed for those shifts was the changing of the story, which is different than attitude.
How Does this Relate to Meaning?
When asked ‘what is meaningful in your life’ or ‘what purpose are you living into in your life,’ your answers are part of your story. Without an answer – a direction – there is no meaning or purpose.
On a religious note, many religions have changed over time – others have not – and yet even the unchanging have adherents who believe different versions/interpretations of the same text. No two people believe the same things in the same way.
In many ways, your story is the island on which meaning and purpose stand.
To explore our ideas – our stories – is to explore what it means to live our life. We are storytelling beings, and the modern human experience exists within anthologies of stories and substories. From brain patterns to fear, from choice to identity, from knowledge to placebo, from culture to religion to science, our stories about these topics make us who we are and dictate who we will be.
Humans are capable of seemingly impossible things: New York City, the global economy, space travel. Why? Because we can create, share, and believe common stories. Common stories are the foundation of culture.
We are the interplay of all of the ideas we encounter.
And thus, to know our ideas – and to CHOOSE our ideas – makes us the authors of our reality, as both individuals and members of society.
What’s in it for Me?
This topic exists to bring awareness to the role that our thoughts play in our lives and to shed light on the agency and responsibility that we can have in affecting our thoughts. With an understanding of this topic, we can be more intentional about our own stories, fostering them in a way that brings more meaning and well-being to life.
No matter the circumstances of your life,
You are still the author of your story.
Nick Vujicic was born with no arms or legs. He attempted suicide at a young age – struggling mentally, emotionally, and physically. Despite the bullying, he graduated college and now travels around the world as a motivational speaker for his non-profit – Life without Limbs – advocating the possibility we have in our lives.
“It’s a lie to think you’re not good enough. It’s a lie to think you’re not worth anything.” – Nick Vujicic
Winfrey was born into poverty in rural Mississippi to a teenage single mother. She has stated that she was molested during her childhood and early teens and became pregnant at 14; her son was born prematurely and died in infancy. She went on to co-anchor the evening news at 19 and has been ranked the greatest black philanthropist in American history.
“Where there is no struggle, there is no strength.” – Oprah Winfrey
Liz Murray was born in the Bronx to poor, drug-addicted, HIV-infected parents. She became homeless at 15 when her mother died, and her father was placed in a homeless shelter. She graduated from Harvard in 2009 with a degree in Psychology and has since authored a book and become an inspirational speaker.
“This fork in the road happens over a hundred times a day, and it’s the choices that you make that will determine the shape of your life.” – Liz Murray
Drawing from core principles of psychotherapy, psychology, identity, and anthropology, YSL offers a simple model for bringing conscious awareness and intention to our life story.
This chapter explores questions like:
What’s a story?
Where do they come from, and where do they exist?
What is subjectively and objectively true?
Who am I, and who am I not?
Who might I become?
How might story help me get there?
With more inspiring examples like…
The Endurance – Ernest Shackleford
When The Endurance was crushed on its trans-antarctic voyage, 28 men found themselves as castaways for 21 months in one of the most savage regions of the world.
And yet, they adjusted to their circumstances with sincere happiness, many signing on for another voyage almost immediately after returning home.
The Bronx Police Story
At a time when crime in the Bronx was high, and police trust was low, the police of the precinct used to pull marbles at random to see who would be patrolling the Bronx.
That continued until one officer chose – repeatedly – the black marble, taking it on themselves to change that reputation.
The impact of that commitment changed the community, and the way policing was done in that precinct.
Michael Jordan was cut from the high school basketball team for not being tall enough. And yet, that occurrence propelled him towards motivation and willpower unrivaled.
“I can accept failure; everyone fails at something, but I can’t accept not trying” – Michael Jordan
The power of story is what made these scenarios possible – it’s what fuels meaning.
Pulling from workshops, motivational models, psychotherapy practices, self-directed courses, pivotal books, and the latest research, this section also offers a blueprint for changing your story and life in areas you want to – both in areas of lingering sourness and of possible sweetness. There is great possibility in knowing and unknowing oneself; the resources in this section offer a curated route – an impactful and intentional map – of this possibility.
Throughout this section, you are invited to join us for the ride. With activities, workbooks, and reflection questions, you can finish this section with a new identity and a new life.
Turn the page, and let’s get started.