Uncovering Your Story

We all remember that kid in school, who when the class was asked to write a story seemed to know right away what they were going to write about. Most of us chewed on our pencils, looked out of the window, and looked around at our friends for inspiration before finally settling to the task. Eventually something would come to mind and then we wrote, well aware that we’d have to hustle to catch up, but knew we would get our story written and handed in on time.

I have news for you – life is still like that when were are older – there is always someone who has already written their book, painted their picture, got a gallery of photos all the way up their staircase – but that doesn’t mean we can’t catch up! In the same way we doggedly worked at our story and got it written as children, we can still get to our project now – and get it done!

How people decide what to work on has always mystified me. As someone who always has many projects on the go at any one time, I find it hard to decide just which one to work on at any time. I have friends who find this approach really bizarre. They prefer to research, read, think, buy tools and supplies, get the opinions of others, and do nearly anything but get started on the project. We’re all at some point on this spectrum of fear of commitment to a project and fear of finishing one and being judged on it, so many of us struggle with choosing one project and working on it until it is done.

One way to bypass this indecision is to ask different questions, and let our gut reaction decide which answer feels best. Our ego-lead brains will try to talk us out of doing anything, and yet we keep asking it what to do. So here are some questions that bypass your brain and go straight to your gut to get some clarity.

  1. What do you find yourself doing – when you have free time – that you actually enjoy? Hint: Ignore all the “shoulds” and head straight for the “loves”. (E.g. “I love to go to the beach!” not, “I need to wash the kitchen floor.” ) List 2-3 things, big and small, that you love to do, then look at your answers to see if there are any common threads. Are they all about getting outside, uncovering mysteries, or eating, perhaps?
  2. What did you spend a lot of time doing as a child? Again, this refers to your down time, the things you would go to your room and pick up to play with, or start to do, that made time disappear? Or did you go outside and play with others or refine your own skills?
  3. What is it that others say is unique and wonderful about you? Do they admire your homemade cooking, your ability to do your taxes without breaking a sweat, or your organizational skills?
  4. What personality traits do others tend to comment on about you? Are you the go-to carer, listener, no-holds-barred-tell-it-as-it-is person, the stoic who can be relied on to listen without freaking out?
  5. What could you stand up and speak about or demonstrate for 15 minutes (or more) right now this second?
  6. What do co-workers or clients say about working with you? What do they most like about your interpersonal skills and ethics?
  7. What do you feel you have still to achieve in life? What is driving that need?

If you jot down all your answers, you will probably find your story in amongst the words on the page. Your personality will start to appear – like it or not – and threads like “freedom”, “friendship”, or “family”, will start to emerge. Sit with this list for a few days and see if you change or add words. This task has no due date, so work on it until you’re ready to act on your project.