The words we choose to explain our experiences, ourselves and our situation impact our lives more than any other aspect of our circumstances.
Changing your words will quite literally change your life.
In recent weeks I’ve been hibernating. Struggling to find words to express what I’ve been going through, and failing to find any I want to share. A blog post by my friend Andrea Maurer sent me a powerful challenge yesterday. She was encouraging me – us – to tell our stories. And I knew that some kind of story from me was long overdue, if only to break the silence.
So I sat down last night to put into words what has been happening. My silence is due to the death of my father, an event too personal and too harrowing to speak about for long, let alone write about. At the same time, I have known that I can’t break the silence without telling you something about it.
The first story I attempted was way too sad. The second way too upbeat. The third… just a bit too clever. I went to bed with no idea if or how or when I would be able to write my blog again.
Then, this morning, came another nudge – from my favourite daily nudge source – Abraham Hicks.
“There is no right or wrong way to tell your improved story. It can be about your past, present, or future experiences. The only criterion that is important is that you be conscious of your intent to tell a better-feeling, improved version of your story. Telling many good-feeling short stories throughout your day will change your point of attraction. Just remember that the story you tell is the basis of your life. So tell it the way you want it to be.”
And it clicked.
I can choose the way I tell my story. And the choice I make will change the way my life turns out.
So I can tell you it was sad; that the medical care came too late; that it was tragic to witness, in a way that left me completely hollowed out and numb; that the way it happened was long drawn out and exhausting.
Or I can tell you that it was beautiful: a peaceful end to a life of faith and hope. That the care that came couldn’t save him but was a testament to the goodness of human nature, full of love and respect and compassion and gentleness; that the way it happened transpired to bring our family together, really together, in a way that hasn’t happened for years, and that the mutual support and cooperation and sheer love that existed between us has left precious memories that will last for ever. I could tell you that well over 300 (I think 400 but everyone thinks I’m exaggerating!) people came to the funeral to say goodbye.
Why were they there? Because my Dad told a good story. His story was one of faith and hope and love. He believed in the love of God with all his heart and he did his best to spread it around, in his own way, wherever he went. It attracted a lot of wonderful people into his life and they all turned out for him.
There’s no point in telling a sad story, especially to yourself. It doesn’t get you anywhere except sadder. The words you choose set your mood, your day, your reactions and the reactions of those around you.
It’s not a gagging order. Of course you need to share your experiences – happy and sad – and we’re all into showing our vulnerability these days. But then watch what you do next. Do you wallow around in all the sadness, or do you turn it into a reason to grab hold of life while you can, to honour the memory but make it more meaningful by doing something positive?
What are your big stories? Are they sad, or happy? In reality, they’re neither. Your stories are things that happened to you. You’re the one who gets to decide whether they make your life a better place to live or not.
It’s hard to choose the happy path. If you’re in the opposite habit it will go against the grain. Sometimes it can even feel a bit disrespectful to those who are lost or still grieving, or those less fortunate than you. It may mean that you need to choose new friends. It certainly means you need to choose new ways of saying things.
The choice is yours and the message is simple.
If you want a better life, you need to tell (yourself and others) a better story.
This post also serves to introduce my new domain name: http://www.getabetterlife.co.uk. Watch this space for more articles on Getting a Better Life.