In the next few blog posts I will be sticking to the theme of
“How We Can Be The Authors of The Story of Our Lives.”
Ever wondered if you are you really the author of your life’s story?
Recently, I've been inspired by Steven Pressfield’s newest book, “Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t”
Although “Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t” is about how to succeed as a writer and what makes a good story, whether you're talking about fiction, advertising, nonfiction, or self-help, the way I've been reading it is as a manual for how to write your life’s story as you live it so that you experience more direction and meaning.
So, let's say you’re unfulfilled in your job and want to try for something better, how can you turn this into a compelling story and give meaning to the events so they makes sense in your life and is directed towards the outcome you want?
In the next few weeks you can learn more about how to apply these strategies to make big shifts in your life.
For today, the theme is DETAILS...
“Truth is not the truth. Fiction is the truth.” -Steven Pressfield
We all create a story that dictates the meaning of our lives. However it is when you consciously frame it as "a story that I AM writing" that you start to gain control over your perception and therefore your actual experience of what’s happening.
You see, it's the nature of the human nervous system to limit the information that's coming in to only those things that are “important.” We do this because processing everything on a conscious level would be overwhelming and make day to day functioning impossible.
That means we tune out things that don’t seem either useful or dangerous, such as extraneous sounds and details in our peripheral vision, or memories that don't seem to have an applicable use in our day-to-day life. And because it's in our childhood that we learn how and what to quickly filter out, it's also as children that we begin to program what we’re perceiving and retaining about reality.
This filtering is an early part of how we begin to create our story.
Now, when you're reading a good book one of the things that can really make it powerful, and beautiful, is when the author includes DETAILS. Even when they may seem irrelevant, details can set the mood or create a context for the events that take place which can shift the meaning. In the same way, the details you consciously take in as you go about your life and those you leave out also affect your story.
Here’s an example. Yesterday my husband, our 1.5 year old: Delilah, and I went on a date to celebrate that he passed his real estate licensing exam. We both were appreciating hitting this milestone on the path to the career and life he’s envisioning. We were enjoying a crazy-delicious dinner and beautiful night when, after being super fun, chill, and quietly playful, Delilah started to get antsy and a little screamy. Fortunately, I was done eating and there was a nice outdoor area where she could safely run and play.
As I stepped outside, here are my conscious details and thoughts in the order that I remember them…
Weather perfect, sunny, warm but with a breeze. We’re alone, though people are walking past on the sidewalk close by.
Ray Charles is playing on outdoor speakers. I ask Delilah if she wants to dance and she begins her usual spinning move.
Off the paved walkway there are beige rocks covering beige dirt (crushed granite actually-I notice because I am thinking about using this in my yard) and many big (100 gallon?) blue ceramic pots growing lime trees that all have a ton of fruit-though not yet ripe.
Around the perimeter are wooden posts with steel cables running through them creating a fence, and growing and pruned into the cables are apple trees fruiting with apples. As I notice all this Delilah is now playing with the gravel.
I stop to contemplate this moment in time. Delilah is my only child and she will never be this age again. The moment is heavenly. I feel the warm wind and see her with the pinkish cast of sunset on her golden skin. I want to burn everything about this into my consciousness, not by taking a picture with my smartphone, but by storing it on my own skin, in my eyes and ears, and in my heart. I consciously think to myself that I will want to come back to this moment when I am dying.
There is a fountain beyond Delilah. She looks at it. I ask her, “do you want to see the fountain?” She says “ya” and I pick her up and carry her to it. She lets the water run over her hand with an expression of purposefulness.
Next I carry her to the lime bushes in the pots and she touches some of the limes, none of them are ripe enough to pick or use.
I set her on the ground on front of an apple tree. She touches the apples on the low viney trees. I ask her if she can say “apple”. In her quiet and airy voice she says, “gaba!” I say, “pretty close” and she walks along to another apple which falls off when she touches it. After exploring it in her hands, she has me hold it for her. We continue along touching and looking at all the apples on all the little trees around the perimeter of this enclosed outdoor area. Another apple falls and she asks me to hold it. As she explores more trees she occasionally asks to see the apples again.
Finally my husband joins us outside. Delilah offers him an apple.
Of course there were many other details to our evening. These are some I consciously chose to receive and retain. They allow me to remember the story as rich and beautiful, the kind of memory that can be a refuge when times are challenging.
Want to see how to use detail to develop your own life’s story?
Think of a recent moment that felt significant and write down not only the details of what occurred but also the sensory details that you were consciously aware of during the experience. After you have done that, notice how the the details affect and shape the story of this life experience.
Let me know if you learned something interesting! And if you like, leave a comment so everyone can enjoy!
P.S. Steven Pressfield, author of a number of successful screenplays, novels, and self-help book such as “The War of Art” and “Do The Work,” strategically gave away copies of this new book to fans and people on his mailing list hoping that we would read it, love it, and want to tell other people about it. I mention it because it was a good strategy that, as you can see from this series of posts, really worked!