If you read the last post about how life is the story you tell yourself, I’m really curious what you’ve been thinking about this past week. Have you been thinking about what life you would live.. If you could live any life you wanted to?
And, even as I ask you that question- does it sound fantastical or imaginary? Like, just think of whatever life you can imagine, and then just start living that life.. Easier said than done, right?
But I really think it’s true!
And that is exactly what I’m working towards right now in my own life, with plenty of evidence that it is working and plenty of encouragement to keep doing it.
I’m guessing that some people might have a knee-jerk cynical resistance to my suggestion that you can create the life you want for yourself. Maybe, right now.. You’re listening… wondering where I’m going with this .. and waiting to see if you’ll agree with me or not. Ok – keep reading!
Dreams of the International Space Station
Someone might say “Oh yeah, the life I want to create for myself is to be an astronaut living on the International Space Station and be the first human to step foot on Mars.”
First of all, if you’re saying that and you mean it, I’m impressed and appreciative of your interest in science and technology and your exploring and adventurous nature- we should hang out!
Secondly, if you are saying that, but you came up with that as an example to disprove my suggestion, here are a few things to note:
- You don’t have to agree with me about any of this. So, if you want to disprove my suggestion, I am 100% fine with that- no argument from me. Just don’t agree with me and we’re good to go!
- Maybe, you’re not really trying to disprove my suggestion – just trying to understand it. Maybe, “the mind in you” is having trouble getting on board with being able to create the life you want for yourself, but in general, you’re interested and curious and wish it could be true, but obviously, it’s not true, because, well.. We both know you’re probably not going to move to the ISS and walk on Mars.
And my question to you is – is the ISS and Mars really, truly, the life you are trying to create for yourself? How long have you been thinking about it? What first got you interested in space? Why Mars.. and not the Moon?
If these questions don’t really apply to you.. It’s because the mind in you was probably just giving an extreme example to disprove my suggestion so it wouldn’t have to be true for you. But guess what?
There ARE people currently living and working on the International Space Station – so, someone in our species, in our lifetime DID decide that’s the life they wanted for themselves.. And then they created that life for themselves. And, it’s possible, that someday, a human will walk on Mars – maybe there’s someone imagining that and creating that life for herself right now! Or, maybe she hasn’t been born yet. But when she is born, and starts learning, she’ll realize that’s what she wants for her life, so she’ll start working towards it.
The Life you Really Want
My guess is, you do want a specific life for yourself, that you have wanted for a while, that you have taken a few steps towards and thought a lot about, but maybe it seems like that exact, specific life is out of reach for you, or too far away, or would take too much time, or money, or effort.. THAT is the life I’m suggesting YOU REALLY CAN HAVE!
Maybe the life you want is to live in a specific place that you’re not living in right now.
Or maybe you imagine yourself being fluent in a language that you don’t yet speak.
Or, maybe you want to work in a profession.. Or not work at all!
Or be in a relationship.. Or be OUT of a relationship.. Whatever you’re daydreaming about and thinking about and wishing about.. That’s the life I’m referring to that is available to you!
What if you don’t know?
On the other hand, maybe this whole episode so far is frustrating and annoying because maybe you don’t know what you want and who you want to be. Maybe you know for sure that you don’t want your current life.. But even if I offered you a million dollars right now to honestly tell me what life you would create for yourself, you couldn’t honestly tell me what you DO want your life to be like (although, that million dollars might change things, right?) Maybe you’re wondering how do I know who I want to be?
I was wondering this, myself, a few years ago. And I felt frustrated and exasperated and powerless.
I felt like I was craving something.. But I didn’t know what I was craving. It was maddening. And it took so much ENERGY to think about and wonder about and question myself and berate myself for not already knowing. I felt like I was the adult, human version of Winnie the Pooh- just telling myself to “THINK, THINK..” but that wasn’t helping.
For a while, I tried repeating the mantra to myself “Not all who wander are lost.” I tried to tell myself.. “I’m just wandering, I’m not lost.” But I didn’t believe it. It really seemed like I was wandering and lost.
I’ve talked to other people who have had a similar level of frustration and exasperation.. And maybe you know someone struggling with this. Or maybe you’re struggling with some version of this yourself.
The way it showed up for me, verbally, when I talked about it and what I’ve noticed in other people was like a “wide eyed bewilderment” and when answering the question: “what do you want to do?” The answer would come out, with just a tinge of whininess in the voice, like “I don’t know”.. And there would usually be that exhale of disappointment at the end.
Does that sound familiar at all?
Understanding my own thoughts
Luckily, a few months into this identity crisis, I was working with a coach who helped me realize that all the drama I was creating for myself about not knowing my life’s purpose and direction and not knowing who I wanted to be was ALL JUST MY OWN THOUGHTS.
Can you believe it? The drama and confusion and lack of direction and purpose wasn’t real. It wasn’t external or something that was happening to me that I had to deal with. It was what I was creating for myself, in my mind! So, because it was internal, and not external- I had complete control over continuing that line of thinking.. Or changing it!
My coach helped me understand that If I thought it was important to have a purpose (which I did), I could decide on that purpose for myself – not wait for my purpose to be unveiled to me by some external force (which I had been longing for, which I had been exasperatedly waiting for). My coach helped me understand that I get to decide all of this. I get to decide what a purpose means, what it includes, how it looks.
I get to decide how I introduce myself, both to myself and to others.
This wasn’t immediate. It wasn’t like she flipped a switch for me. It’s not like one coaching session she told me “Hey, Bex, you get to decide what your purpose means. You get to decide how you show up.” and I was like-”Oh, you’re right, it’s all clear now.”
She may have told me and I probably said “I don’t know, I don’t get it, I can’t see it.. What do you mean.. I don’t think so.” So MUCH resistance – right? And not resistance from a place of anger or stubbornness – this was more of a low-level, passive resistance because I genuinely did not know or understand.
Breaking through my Mind’s “protection”
The awareness she was offering me was new, and different, and unknown – so of course, being the protective human mind that it is, my mind wanted to protect me from considering anything new and different.
As you know, if you’ve been following these posts, one way that my mind can try on new thoughts and ideas is through metaphors. If I see how something works in a non-personal way, then I can consider that it could work for me in a personal way.
So, in thinking about how I would decide who I wanted to be and what I wanted as my purpose, I imagined myself as a director of a movie, “My Life”, and I thought of the main character in that movie- ME. Perfect Casting, right?
I started thinking, as the director of that movie.. What would the movie be about? What did I want for that main character? What would she be doing? How would she show up? What would her strengths and talents and special skills be?
I decided to approach myself as if I was writing a character in a movie. Because, after all, don’t I get to develop my own character? Don’t I get to decide on the wardrobes, and scenes and props and the storyline for my life?
I wondered, how do writers develop their characters for movies. So, I researched some character development exercises that writers use and I made a huge list of questions.
I answered each question about the character I wanted to play in the movie that is my life. I was very intentional not to compare that future character with who I thought I was currently at the time.
This was a resistance-free zone, since I was just answering questions about a character in a fictional movie – not about myself, personally. I gave myself complete creative freedom to just answer as I would want the character to be- with no consideration of what I thought about my current, “real self.”
By doing this exercise in a resistance-free zone, I was open to any possibility, any outcome, any creative and interesting thing I could imagine would be amazing for this made up character.
And even though I gave myself that creative freedom, the answers weren’t all fictional. As I read the questions, and thought of the answers, I realized, I already am who I want to be in that area or I already do whatever I would want my character to do for this question. I already have what I would want my character to have for some things. For some questions though, the answer I wrote down had nothing to do with my current reality.
This exercise took hours. I had to skip some questions and come back to them. I didn’t like some of the questions. Some of the questions really made me stretch and open my mind. It was so fun! And liberating! And interesting! And thought provoking!
After I answered all of the questions, I wrote out all of the answers I had come up with, in paragraph form as if I were just writing a description of a person, like a biography.
I edited, I added, I changed a word here or there – and by the time I was done (this took a few more hours), I had an amazing detailed, description of who I wanted to be, and, I understood that I wanted my purpose in life to be working towards becoming the character that I had just developed!
And becoming that character has become my purpose and is what I have been doing ever since. And I love it.
I love her! I think she’s so interesting and exciting and smart and funny. She has amazing relationships, an interesting, successful career that she’s so good at and a great sense of style. She’s who I want to hang out with all of the time!
That exercise was LIFE CHANGING for me! From one day to the next, everything changed for me.
Before the exercise I was craving a purpose. I was confused about what I wanted for myself, after the exercise I had a purpose. I knew exactly what parts of my life I wanted to work on.
I had a clear vision of how I want to show up, all the time.
The skills, habits and strengths that I didn’t have yet were illuminated for me to be aware of so I could find ways to work on them.
The elements that I want for my character that I already have and enjoy became obvious so that I can notice them frequently and be grateful for them, and find more evidence of their existence!
I used this description to write myself a Manifesto (which I’ll talk about in the next episode) and to create a vision board for myself. I repeat parts of this description to myself frequently and I was (and am) so DELIGHTED when I see evidence of it being true in my life.
For example, one of the questions is: “how do you want to be seen by others?” I wrote “I’m confident and happy. I have good energy.” And then, I noticed, two times specifically I’m thinking of right now, when people told me “I like your energy” when they met me!
Technique for Coaching
I especially love using an abbreviated version of this technique with coaching clients because it helps them get out of their own head and look at themselves (or rather, a character from the outside looking in). This requires imagination though, and I’ve noticed, not everyone can access this on demand. Especially with another person listening intently and taking notes!
Sometimes it takes a while to warm up to the completely open, anything goes, everything is possible mentality and just be as creative and imaginative as possible. Sometimes the mind, or the ego, is too protective though, too resistant to change. The mind will throw out all sorts of barriers and obstacles like:
“I don’t know!”
“That’s not who I am!”
“I don’t deserve that!”
“I could never…”
“People wouldn’t like if I…”
Even just thinking about coming up with a new character might feel too big. And if the mind in you is offering commentary as you’re trying to do this exercise, it can feel disheartening. So, if you decide to do an exercise like this for yourself, I’m forewarning you that there may be resistance from your comfortable, protective mind.
It doesn’t want change. It wants the status quo. It doesn’t want to experiment and explore – especially if the outcome is unclear! Different and new is scary and unknown, right? The mind will tell you “something bad might happen! Yes, life sucks right now.. But at least this is familiar! What if we change and it sucks and it’s new too? That’s worse.. Let’s just stay with what we know.”
If you do decide you want to push forward and engage your creativity and imagination, I recommend that you clear your mind of any rational logic that connects your current self, situation, abilities and background and really just let your creative imagination take over!
A Big Way to Do This
If you do decide to do an exercise like this for yourself, I’m giving you permission right now to SPIN YOUR PAST!
What do I mean by that? One of the questions I used in my exercise (remember, it’s taken from questions by writers to develop a fictional character) is “what are some of your past jobs?”
So, let’s say, the future character that I’m describing for myself never worked retail.. But I did work retail in my real past. You know what I did? I just answered the question with the jobs I felt were more aligned with the character I’m creating for myself, and I omitted the jobs I felt didn’t really apply from my description.
Because, guess what? YOU GET TO DECIDE the story you tell yourself and other people!
The fact that I worked retail in my teens and 20s doesn’t have much of an impact on my life today, so I just leave it out of my personal narrative. And, instead, I focus more on the jobs I had that really do align with who I want to be in the future.
This isn’t a federal background check! I don’t have to list every job. There is no penalty!
Same goes with a description of how or where you grew up.. SPIN AWAY! Guess what? you’re already spinning it now!
What Story are you Telling Yourself Now?
You’re telling yourself a story about your past that either makes you feel great or makes you feel regret, and maybe even disappointment, and maybe, anger. If you’re telling yourself a story about your past that makes you feel angry or disappointed.. Change that story immediately! Spin it!
Make yourself the underdog who succeeded from that story – or not even the underdog! Make yourself the survivor, or better yet, the hero of that story.Whatever you do, if you have cast yourself as a victim in the story you tell yourself about your past- change that TODAY!
You’re the only one who gets to decide the story of your life!
It’s no one else’s business. And if someone else is trying to tell you a story about your life, just remember, it’s ok for them to be wrong about you.
What’s not ok is for you to tell yourself, and believe and make decisions from a story about yourself that makes you feel horrible. That story that you’re telling yourself is just a collection of thoughts.
So, if it’s not great.. If it’s not serving you… if it’s not making you feel the way you want to feel and not making you do the things you want to do.. And not giving you the results you wish you had in your life, replace the OLD collection of thoughts with a NEW Collection of Thoughts.
You get to! You can do and think whatever you want! There is NO RULE in life that you have to keep believing what you always believed about yourself.
There is NO PENALTY for choosing brand new, different thoughts to start thinking about your past – not only is there no penalty – but there are HUGE REWARDS!
And I want those rewards for you! I’m excited for you! I’m curious about how you’ll do this and what you’ll create for yourself instead!
Help for YOU
I can help you with this! You can get coached, by me, through this whole process!
If you’re feeling excited, or buzzed, or curious about this right now – stop what you’re doing and schedule some time with me right now! I’m super excited for you to start – or continue- your own character development work.
I promise you – it is the best work you will ever do for yourself! No matter where you are in your life right now, no matter what you’ve already done or what you used to think was possible or available for you.