We all have a story, and it is important to know your story. We aren’t just a haphazard compilation of ideas and thoughts, unless we surrender our story to external forces. When you take control of your story you can take a series of events and turn it into a masterpiece.
What happens when you have an outline or a script, but your story no longer fits who you are?
When I started out in my field, I wanted to do family mediation. I wanted to be the person who helped to provide a process for families to heal wounds, and build rules of relationship that worked for everyone, not just one spouse or exclude the need of children. I had watched several friends be used as pawns in their parents divorce. My heart ached for them. I saw families that used to care for one another view their custody and divorce cases as completely win/lose options. I wanted to work with people to provide another option. My story was that I wanted to make a difference in families, especially with children because I saw how difficult the experience was on my friends.
As I went further in my studies, I realized that their are many more applications to mediation and conflict transformation than just in families. It dawned on me that I wanted to look at conflict transformation through another lens. However, I had told everyone in my family that my dream was to work with families, specifically in divorce and custody mediation. What do I do now?
I realized that my focus had shifted, and my story changed. I needed to re-write my story to fit my goals, and to shift my story based on my goals and not external expectations. My story became I wanted to apply conflict transformation and restorative justice principles to help leaders thrive. I recognized that what used to really drive my curiosity was now on the back burner. I fell in love with the idea of building systems and processes that take into account the needs of people and the systems where they live and work. It didn’t mean that I no longer wanted to help families when they are struggling with their story, I just recognized that there are other avenues for sharing those skills and making a difference in the world. I took control of my story. I struggled with who I wanted to be. I recognized that I can change my story based on my passions and life experiences. I control the process of writing my story, and my story continues to develop with even deeper storylines and character development.
Have you ever written your story based on what other people have said?
As we progress through our career and into leadership roles, we have to be extremely conscious of our story. Are we living our story? Or are we living the story that others think we should be living? It is very easy to get started on a career path that we never really intended on following. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It just needs to be YOUR path that evolved because your goals, passions, and experiences shifted, not someone else’s.
We start out with an ideal image of how our story will go. It usually includes a big “aha” moment where you realize you have found your life’s calling, you build a career, reach the highest position in the field, make a lot of money, and retire to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Sounds great, and yet our stories change. Very few people have the experience of easily walking through their original plan and story. Think about your favorite novel. It usually involves dynamic characters who think that they have it all figured out, and then a crisis happens. This crisis or conflict is ultimately what forces them to re-evaluate who they are and what they want to be. This is where they develop character and grit. They rewrite their story to make it who they want to be, not just going along with the circumstances surrounding their story. What they thought was their purpose or passion is put in a crucible and what comes out on the other side is their true passion. They hold themselves accountable for who they are and who they want to be. They own their story.
“Who lives, Who dies, Who tells your story”- Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda
The same story process that you read in novels also applies to your career and leadership journey. Find something that interests you. Passion and purpose are not something that happens in a bolt of lightening. Rather, the development of a passion occurs over time. Take control of your story. Start looking at your leadership journey as a novel that you control. You will have love, joy, hardship, and triumph. You can choose to write your story with courage, empathy, and emotional intelligence. You can choose to keep your storyline open for development. You can choose to not set limits on your potential.
Our stories can limit where we go, or they can open up limitless horizons.
Use your journey to write fantastic stories for the future. Keep in mind that very few authors use their first draft. Therefore, your story has potential to change. You don’t have to be contained by a box of a story, because let’s face it, it is hard to read the label when you are inside the box. It is hard to read your story when you are stuck on page 10.
You are the author of your leadership journey. What is your story?