I’ve been thinking lately about stories. About how, when we come across someone else’s story, we hear it through a wildly different filter than the one we use to judge our own lives.
Here’s an example:
You come across a story about Rosie. Rosie is doing something impressive these days… though as you read her story, you see she went through some tough times to get there. (She got off-path and lost her way, felt surrounded by a billion barriers – before ultimately figuring it out and things fell into place…
You know – a classic ‘success story’).
We’ve all heard that sort of tale before, but what I hadn’t considered until recently is this:
The months or years that were the most painful, that dragged on, the ones that felt the darkest and never ending at the time? These take up the least space when reading these stories.
“I spent the next 2 years lost –going around in circles and making mistake after mistake. I wondered if it would ever get better. Maybe this was it, maybe this was just life? But then [good bit starts]”
Hold up a moment. TWO YEARS? Two words that can be said in an instant but think about what two years feels like when things are down. That’s moment after moment, afternoon after morning, moments that feel like they’ll never break through.
Look, I don’t know about you but when I’m in the middle of a two WEEK dark patch, I feel like it’s going to be that way forever. Right? You wake up, wonder if this is going to be it from now on, go sleep and repeat.
Of course objectively that tiny sensible bit inside knows that’s not true… but you also wonder, what if it is?
Which is why I bring up these stories. Because when you’re in a bad place, sure, success stories can be uplifting – but secretly we’ve all felt they can also be a bit of a blow.
Because how could THAT person get it? How could they with their shiny lives get how you feel now? And the killer: deep down you think If they had felt like I do now they would not have broken through.
That’s what we all think, secretly, in the down times.
And that’s the danger of skim reading words like TWO YEARS (or twenty years…) of someone’s life and thinking of it as just a story.
It’s never ‘just a story’.
It may take an instant to say, but it felt like forever to live.
More to the point at the time of reading, you have an insight that the hero of that story doesn’t have: you can take an safe bet things turns out alright (that’s probably why they are on that stage or telling that tale!).
But they didn’t have that gift of hindsight.
Back then they had no idea.
They had no idea that they were in the middle of their story (let alone one that will reach thousands). They thought it was closer to the end.
At that moment they felt like the good bit was over … that their day to day is the embarrassing epilogue that, at best, they will have to sweep under the carpet.
As I read those stories I want to reach back in time and whisper to the unwitting hero-who-feels-like-anything-but and tell them: “it ends well my love! One day this will be the middle of your story, not the end”.
And I can’t go back in time and whisper to them. But I can whisper to the future heroes. To the ones in the middle of their tale today (but feeling anything but).
I can whisper to you.
And challenge you to try one simple thing:
What if you applied the same respect as you do when reading someone’s story… to your own experience here and now?
What if you viewed your ‘today’ as a line, a paragraph, or even a chapter about this time in your life – a chapter before another half to the book that was oh so different. How different could things be then?
It’s not talked about much, but there’s a shame many of us feel when things aren’t exactly going to plan (or when there’s not even a proper plan for them to go to!).
There’s that frustration tinged with shame of wasted time, of not doing it right, of it becoming too late. Even if things are not your fault, this feeling niggles away day to day.
Apply this new way of thinking to listening to other people’s stories and you’ll see that there are many moments like that right there too – moments of wasted time and things not working out and not doing it right and maybe it did look too late… but whatever ‘it’ is, above all notice the way that you don’t judge those people for it. You never did. You always saw it as part of the story!
If you can do that in the tales you hear you can do that to your own tale as you live it.
I could go on to give you lots of ideas for lifting yourself up and out – like the importance of surrounding yourself with people who get you, approaches for changing your world without changing your personality, revising where your limited energy is going, overcoming our society’s messed up version of how ‘breakthroughs’ happen, the importance of momentum, and so much more and they’re all true…
… But that’s for another piece.
Because when your head’s feeling full and your heart’s feeling empty those words can slide in and out.
So today, I just want you to take these two things with you:
1) take up the challenge of listening to stories differently. Apply the same respect to your own day to day experience as you would to the middle of someone else’s story.
2) Remember it’s not wrong to have a fallow patch as part of your story – in fact it’s often part of the process, so if you’ve been beating yourself up about it, then know that might well be all it is: a winter season, not the end of your world.
Sometimes, that’s enough to get started with.
Sending lots of love to you today,
Think someone else might need to hear this too?
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