|  Traveling Psychologist   |  What is Your Story?

What is Your Story?

“When we share our stories, we are reminded of the humanity in each other. And when we take the time to understand each other’s stories, we become more forgiving, more empathetic, and more inclusive.” ~Michelle Obama

One of the things I absolutely love to do when I travel is tour cathedrals and churches. I not only LOVE history, but I love the peaceful feeling and the pure silence that we experience when we are in ancient religious buildings. The absolute quiet is unlike any other silence I have experienced.

There are two amazing cathedrals in Melbourne…St. Paul’s Cathedral and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I visited them both and I had an amazing experience when I visited St. Paul’s Cathedral. I walked in and did what my Catholic upbringing taught me to do…bless myself with holy water and make the sign of the cross. As I began to walk toward the back of the cathedral a woman stopped me.

I loved seeing this plaque inside St. Paul’s Cathedral!

This woman had a name tag that said “Storyteller.” Her name was Holly. Holly approached me and simply asked, “Would you like to hear a story?” Holly’s job was to tell visitors the stories behind the beautiful stained-glass windows. I said “yes” and was immediately thrown back to my childhood! I listened to Holly tell me the story of the three wise men and I was enthralled by her unique storytelling abilities. She was animated, excited, and knowledgeable and told the story with such passion. Before I walked on, I asked Holly what made her want to volunteer to tell these stories in the cathedral and she said, “Stories make us curious and allow us to learn things about each other we may have never known. It is the element that binds us. Stories are part of our everyday life and I love sharing these stories with people. It reminds them of things they may have forgotten.”

Inside St. Paul’s Cathedral

Listening to Holly tell me a story made me begin to think about my own story. What is my story? Is it a story I would want others to tell? How do I want people to feel when they hear my story? Is there anything in my story I want to change? How do I want my story to end?

Before I left on this trip, I was not feeling good about my story. I felt like someone had hit the “pause” button on my story and it suddenly wasn’t going anywhere. The thing that we forget about our story is that we can create whatever story we want. We forget this because our lives move so fast. We are all moving at 100 miles per hour with so many things on our plate that we inadvertently put our stories on autopilot and just allow the story to run on its own, forgetting that we are behind the creative wheel. We sometimes feel stuck in our story. Maybe our lives are in a place where we feel as if we have no choice and have to play out a scene in our story because of obligation or because it is what others want and we are afraid to speak up and hurt someone’s feelings. Sometimes fear or money drives our story. Sometimes shame and feelings of low self-worth make us choose elements of our story that are not what we really want but what we feel we deserve.

As a Christmas gift to yourself, I want you to sit down and answer these questions. There is one rule to this exercise. You have to answer the questions with no “reality filter.” You are only allowed to write what you ideally want regardless of whether you think it can be a reality based on where you now are in your story. Got it?

  • Does your current story excite you?
  • What is getting in the way of you living the story you want to live? (own this question and be careful not to answer it from a victim perspective)
  • What do you want your story to be?
    • What do you do for work?
    • How much money do you make?
    • Who is in your life?
    • What experiences do you want to have?
    • What difference do you want to make in the world?
    • What do you want to be known for?
  • What do you need to let go of (limiting beliefs, relationships, feelings about yourself, etc.) in order to live the story you want?
  • Who are you becoming as a consequence of your current story?
  • If your ideal story plays out, what will the benefits be?
  • What do you need to do to make your ideal story a reality?
  • What can you start doing today to live into your ideal story?

The entire outdoor perimeter of St. Patrick’s Cathedral was made of rose bushes of all colors!

Some of you may not know the answers to these questions and that is OK. When it comes to what we want in our own lives, our creative muscles sometimes need flexing. One way I have found that helps me answer questions like these when I don’t know the answer is by watching other people. I watch how others are living their lives and ask myself if that is something I want. I also keep an ongoing bucket list of the things I want and I add to this list regularly. You can even ask others who know you well what they notice about what you like and don’t like. Start to become more aware of your life. Turn off the autopilot button and make each decision consciously and check to see how it makes you feel. You deserve to feel good!

As I head off to Sydney and we all enter a holiday week and the beginning of a new year, please take some time for yourself. Do what you love, be with the people you love, and above all, do something to love yourself. Make your story an amazing one!

Here’s to a great story!

Chris

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