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Telling your story


Before I get to the subject of this week’s blog, I’d like to ask you to do me a favour.  To do this, you’ll need a piece of paper and a pen and you’ll also need to pay very close attention to your mind.  I’m going to give you a word and I’d like you to write down the first word you think of when you see the word I’m going to give you.  It can be any word you like, whatever pops into your head but, as I said, you’ll need to pay very close attention to your mind. 

Are you ready?  The word is: choice.  Write down the word you associate with choice and we’ll come back to it in a while.

I was working with a group this week, helping them work out what they wanted to do with their lives and careers.  This obviously involves some goal setting and that goal can be very general or it can be very specific.  To use a journey as an analogy, your destination could be as general as London or as specific as a particular address.  Neither is better than the other but, in order to set off in any meaningful way, you’ll probably need at least a general idea of where you’re going.

One of the delegates was completely unable to do this.  She had, she claimed, absolutely no idea of where she was going.  Not only that, she was sceptical about the whole process.  There were too many other things that could happen in the future – including the old cliché of falling under a bus tomorrow (I checked: she didn’t) – and for her that made planning or goal setting pointless and impossible.

We spent some time thinking about the journey she had already made in her life and it occurred to me that we can tell our life stories in one of three ways.  It can be a story of chance – luck, coincidences and random happenings.  It can be a story of destiny – you were fated to marry that person, born to do that job.  Or it can be a story of choice – where you are today is a result of the choices you made yesterday and the day before and the day before that.  All of those three options, it seems to me, are equally valid; it’s your autobiography and you can tell it any way you choose.  However, only one of those options allows you to have any part in building your future, and that’s choice.

Go back to the word you wrote.  Some people write negative words – burden, difficulty, overwhelming; some write positive words – freedom, autonomy, excitement.  I wonder what you wrote.  And I wonder how much the word you associate with choice will determine the way you tell your autobiography – and the extent to which you write your own future.

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