Your Life Is Writing a Story: How to Shape the Narrative
Remember that whole ‘actions speak louder than words’ saying from elementary school?
Your daily actions say so much more about who you are and what you value most than you may have ever noticed.
As we touched on in part 1, a Conscious Narrative reclaims your agency over this story and centers what you value most. At its essence, this is a way to create the story of your life through expression of individual Core Values. These actions can be as small as taking a deep breath and noticing the trill of the robins in early spring when you walk to the end of the drive to collect the mail from your mailbox; these actions may be as huge as making a major career shift and deciding you are the person who will move cross-country to follow an incredible opportunity. And it’s those values, your intent and motivation behind the action that writes this richness into the story of your life. Ultimately, just like it’s up to you to define your Core Values, it’s up to you to define your actions and intentions.
So how does one begin to live a Conscious Narrative? By understanding one’s Core Values.
And how do we divine our own Core Values?
1. Explore your past.
What do your past actions illuminate as your Core Values? I’m a strong believer that though our past should not dictate our present, our past most certainly informs our present and even our future in a myriad of ways. Specifically when it comes to Core Values, I think we need to explore Peak Experiences.
Anyone else remember in high school studying Transcendentalism, especially Ralph Waldo Emerson and his crew? Full disclosure, I understood just enough to get by on the tests, but not much else. Regardless, here’s Transcendentalism For Non-Philosophers: divinity and holy experiences exist in all of nature and all of humanity. Sidenote: it was also pretty damn feminist for its time.
Whether or not you’ve felt something you might describe as Divine or Holy, we’ve all had moments that we felt transcended our daily life. The moments of pure goodness that we felt filled up to the brim of our being. Moments in which we were so immersed and engrossed it felt like we were operating on a different plane of existence. Even just moments of plain contentment in which we were fully present.
In order to divine your Core Values, take some time - really take a good chunk of time - to just sit with this all. Make a favorite beverage, light that expensive candle you’ve been saving, maybe light some palo santo: whatever works for you, I encourage you to start with just reflection.
2. Note the patterns.
Assuming you took the time to reflect on your life’s peak experiences, what jumped out at you? What events are seared into your memory with such clarity you can practically taste that moment? Write them down. Take maybe the top four or five peak experiences that bubbled to the top of your mind, and really explore them. You don’t have to be a creative writer here (though I will always encourage creative expression in whatever form you feel called to), it could even just be a list of memories for every sense. What could you hear, what did you smell, what did your clothes feel like against your body, what emotions felt like they might burst out of your chest they were so big?
This is the good stuff.
These are the moments in which you were perfectly aligned with your Core Values. Make a list - it could even be 20 values deep - of the things you notice and the values you see recurring throughout these peak experiences. If you’re struggling
3. Define your Values for YOU.
What I define as Curiosity when I say this is one of my Core Values may not be the same as how you define it - and that’s awesome! If you know nothing else about me, you probably know that I love language and the power words have for individuals and the ways in which we define language for ourselves. Here’s where you need to dig deep into what these words, what these Core Values mean for YOU.
Start by imagining scenarios that to you exemplify this Core Value. Flesh out the scene and paint a picture of what this Value is in action, what it looks like in both its most complex and simplest forms. Again, get as creative or not as you like, but allow yourself to take the time to wander in your imagination for a bit. Give yourself the space to space out. Take note of what bubbles to the surface and note the overlaps of Core Values and definitions. You’ll most certainly find yourself whittling your list down: most folks typically have 3-5 Core Values.
4. Imagine your day defined by your Core Values. (and no, this isn’t a Your Perfect Day exercise.)
In whatever medium you’ve been exploring your Core Values up until this point, make a T chart.
On the left hand side, start by listing out the things that, in your mind, would make for a perfect day with the life you have RIGHT NOW. We’ll dream big some other time - this imagining is all about what you realistically see as being fantastic within your daily control.
For me, this list may seem a bit simple, for example:
Having extra time to daydream in bed before I get out of bed
A long, luxurious breakfast hour
Yoga at some point during the day
Then on the right side, note which values may be expressed within these events that are part of a fantastic, realistic day.
Having extra time to daydream in bed before I get out of bed
I value independence, the ability to stay in bed past my alarm;
I value curiosity: the time to daydream and allow my mind to wander
A long, luxurious breakfast hour with classical MPR on in the background
I value joy: the music brings joy and delight into my morning
I value inspiration: I allow myself a full hour to digest and nourish and (again) let my mind wander
And so on throughout the day until you can see what is an ordinary, realistic day laid out for you in terms of your own Core Values.
This is Part 2 of the three part series on Living A Conscious Narrative.
Part 3 of this series will bring us full circle into seeing these Core Values in action and in our daily lives, regardless of the ideal day that you may have just outlined.
I hope to introduce this concept, illustrate what it looks like daily, and inspire you to start creating the narrative of YOUR life.