“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.” So begins Charles Dickens' great novel, David Copperfield.
Like David Copperfield, we each have a story we tell ourselves about our lives. By this story we portray to ourselves who we are, what world we travel through, what trials we face in it, with what resources and skills we meet those trials, and whether we are, indeed, turning out to be the heroes of our own lives. These stories we use to stay oriented in our lives, to guide ourselves through the twists and turns of our plot lines, and to give meaning to our living. We can't live without them.
But while these stories are necessary to successful living, they can also become obstacles to our growth and flourishing. We start composing our stories at a very young age, when we are most impressionable but are also least experienced to make good judgments about the episodes we are including, what they actually mean, and what they say about us. By the time experience matures our judgments, aspects of our stories may have become so familiar through repetition that we don't even recognize them as our own creations anymore. We begin to think "Well, that's just who I am. That's just the way the world is. And this is how I have to be in it." And that's when our stories, rather than promoting our flourishing, inhibit it.
Most of us may get our first inkling that our stories need revision when we have begun feeling "stuck". Perhaps we feel a vague discontent with our familiar roles and relationships. Or we may sense how aspirations for what we want from relationships, career, or creativity repeatedly escape our grasp. Or we may have a sudden revelation, a lightening-strike illumination of the disparity between how are are living and how we might like to live. However the sensation may arise for us, our task becomes one of revisiting our stories to ask how they may be revise to enable our flourishing rather than impede it: to make us each the hero of our own life rather than a by-stander to it.