A popular exercise in a creative writing class is getting the students to write their own finale to a given story. One method is by changing the dialogue of the protagonist at crucial points.
I remember a student saying, “Ma’am I don’t like the ending. It does not make me feel good.”
“So what can you do? Simply changing the last line will not do,” I responded. “I can change her thoughts. She could make different choices. Instead of changing her school and running away because she was getting bullied, she could form a group of students who suffered like her or supported her. “
“They could organise a protest petition. A group would be stronger and those bullying would think twice, before they did or said mean things.”
The young student had thought through the process and realised that one can try to veer the story to a desired conclusion.
“Atta girl! That is the way to go. You are learning the ropes early in life,” I thought to myself.
Life gives a framework for our personal story
Where and to whom we are born, opportunities provided to us, decisions taken for us when we are very young, societal and family influences, etc. are not matters we have control over. Call it destiny, circumstances or God’s bigger plan for us. But how we live our story – fill in the details, the conversations, inner dialogues – is up to us.
The school, the bullies, the situations the girl was facing, were beyond her control. But she could choose to run away or face it intelligently and effectively and write her story accordingly.
How to script your own life story
Own it. It is never too late.When in a dilemma, certainly take help and advice but finally be your own author. Sometimes it is easier to delegate decisions to others but it is you who has to live it. Along the journey, certain decisions will need to be edited or altered and we need to be on top of the game, of how we take our life forward.
We need to be interactive and proactive with our own life. The truth is that we often become bystanders as our own life passes us by.We know that we cannot change the past. But we can change how we replay it in our internal dialogues and make new meanings from it.
As a result, we rewrite our responses to it in the present, in a way that it is more constructive and helpful to us.Even a small shift in perspective and retelling, can have a substantial impact on the future.
Live your thoughts and wishes. Japan has the concept of ‘Ikigai’. It refers to anything, small or big, that gives a person a reason to live, a purpose in life, something to look forward to on waking up, even if it is having a steaming cup of tea. It is important that we find our Ikigai.
Take charge of the Life Story
Minal’s school group posted a story of a classmate who had never been able to join her childhood mates for a weekend trip outside the city because of ‘pressing’ responsibilities in her home. It seemed that she was indispensable.
And then she suddenly passed away. But her home, husband, children and in-laws managed fine after a short period of adjustment. This episode shook Minal and she resonated with it deeply.
A friend, who was a counsellor, suggested that Minal (in her late forties) write her life story and predict how she would want it to pan out. As she penned her life in words, decade by decade, she became increasingly conscious of the monotony of her existence and how conditioned she had become to it.
She could not remember when she had last done something different, challenged herself, felt really excited and enthused, felt tinglingly alive. It was depressing to imagine the future following the same vein.
Even as a child she loved visiting butterfly and bird parks and had imagined becoming an ornithologist. Despite her abiding love for them, they had been relegated to a neglected corner of her life.
And the years were ticking away. No, she could not let her life get lost in a moribund state, with no cheer. She needed to take charge of her life story and she did.
Scripting the Life Story in the present tense
Life coaches suggest that you write the script in the present tense. Not as wishful thinking but as a live, palpable life that you are leading currently. It could be a personal achievement, a charitable act. Just word it as if it is actually happening.
“I am writing the first chapter of my book”; “ I am ordering fifteen cardigans to give to the orphanage”; “Having lost five kilograms by doing intermittent fasting, I am feeling so much better”; “I’ve volunteered to help at the home for senior citizens thrice a week for two hours”; I have fixed an appointment with the lawyer to understand the legal details of setting up my consultancy firm”.
Doing this helps in putting urgency and actuality in the script. Believing in your story and having faith in yourself is important. So what follows is to write the script details, such that you take small steps to reach the goal.
Some important actions in the process are –
- Cheer yourself on as you achieve small targets. The destination will not appear impossible to reach.
- Share your ideas with those who wish you well, understand you and will support you. It is most natural to have questions and fears and having supportive voices always helps.
- Ask yourself, if your story was offered to you to write a book, would it interest you? In other words does your own life interest you and does it seem interesting to you?
- Another question to ask is, “What would I not want to regret?” It helps in framing the episodes and filling in the details. An approximate timeframe for each episode is useful.
Given that life has a habit of throwing up surprises, it is essential that we do not get obsessed and fixated with our own script. We need to have the mental flexibility to tweak it as and when necessary. Remember, if we are the authors, we own it.
How does scripting a life story help?
Not having a plan or a life story script does not mean that life goes astray and we lead a worthless existence.But we have limited time; and having a plan, pausing and reviewing how things are going, helps in self reflection, making changes to live our lives better and happier.
Scripting a Life Story helps in the following ways –
- It is an opportunity to make the gift of life more worthwhile.It gives us clarity of vision of where we are, where we aspire to be on different parameters and lets us chalk out a rough plan of how to get there.
- Reviewing helps in getting back to base and understanding where the effort is sufficient or lacking. Also, life situations change and we can alter the script accordingly. We can flow with the river of life and be the coxswain of our boat.
- Having something written down gives a formal structure that we can refer to. It acts as an inspiration and a guide. Reading it aloud to ourselves regularly keeps us on track.
- Making a plan and detailing how we can actualise it, helps us to become aware of all our resources. Inside and around us.
- Affirming to ourselves that it will happen, helps in attracting the energy of the Universe, of which we are an integral part, to get activated to support us. We energise and re-charge ourselves.
- Finally, there is only so much that we can plan and prepare. There is always the unknown, unexpected and unanticipated element in life that takes us unawares.
And then we need to deal with it as best as we can; with this belief that “Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston S. Churchill
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