Written by Rachel Beck
“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts.” – William Shakespeare
We all tell ourselves stories. We make sense of the world through stories, which is one of the great powers of storytelling, but the act of storytelling is usually an unconscious one. We play muse, director, actor and critic to our own performances. How we see the world, those around us, and ourselves, is dependent on that story.
Catch yourself in the act of storytelling for a moment. Is this a good world with bad patches, or a dark world lit only by tiny points of hope? People will let you down, but is that more likely than not? Are you the hero or an extra on the set to someone else’s stardom? Is this the story of your success or failure? Does the story have a point, or is it only a meditation on the madness we call life?
Whether we attribute what goes right or wrong to ourselves or to something beyond our control plays a huge role in what kind of story we are telling ourselves. Was your script rejected because you are a bad writer, or because they have a bias against your subject matter? Did you succeed in publishing the article because you are a talented, insightful individual, or because they needed something to fill the white space at the end of a story?
What is particularly interesting about these stories is how we handle them when they go wrong. A single rejection letter may be part of the story you anticipated, but a dozen? A hundred? Relationships go unexpectedly wrong, financial hardship sets in, or a loved one suddenly dies. This was not the way the story was meant to go. It is the wrong genre and you have no business in it.
What is important here is to realize the power we have as the storyteller. It is the delicate line between pragmatism and self-deception that the comedian must walk every time he steps out onto the stage. We can direct only ourselves in this little drama, but we have within ourselves the power to decide if any given failure is a climax or the early scenes of a montage towards success. What we decide about that moment determines how we see the rest of the story, and how we predict it will unfold. So be kind to yourself. Tell yourself a story worth hearing. And if your story is not worth hearing, then determine one that is, and make it so.
For more on the power of storytelling, click here.