How To Live A Better Story

"All great changes are preceded by chaos."
~Deepak Chopra

We did not just land in the middle of our story.
We authored it, and we continue to do so on a daily basis.
As authors, we can direct and edit our story.

My friend DZ gave me a book called A Million Miles In A Thousand Years by Donald Miller.
In this book, Miller compares writing a story to living a life.
How we live our life is us writing our story.

The basic structure of a good story is about a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.
People tend to root for such characters when it is established that the character has basic goodness in him/her.
Sometimes conflict is something born into, while other times the conflict is inflicted or is brought about by an inciting event.

I have gone through certain experiences in life that have left me feeling lost and unsure of my self at times.
It has led me to make bad decisions, go through depression and be unable to give my best self in my relationships.
It has led to a few inciting events in my life.

An inciting event causes you to be confused, angry and to feel stuck.
Some people go through just one event, while others go through a series of them. 
While it is happening it looks and feels over-the-top bad,
however interestingly enough, the sheer explosion of an inciting event forces our character to evolve or make changes. 

We can get unstuck by making a decisive choice to tell a better story.
While this sounds easier said than done when one is in the midst of absolute stuckness--
I am discovering that changes made in order to start living a better story,  don't necessarily have to be drastic.
We can start by quitting something really simple.
We must stop retelling stories about experiences that did not bring us happiness.
(The story about the unbelievably rude salesperson,  the argument at the office, the friend that was inconsiderate, that fact that you were raised by a pack of wolves, etc.)
We can redirect the path of our life by making sure that that which brings us joy, takes nothing away from others.
(Examining even a good thing, like going for a run--if my choice to go for a run means I am never home for dinner with my family...that choice does not support me telling a better
Make a conscious effort to be grateful participants instead of unwilling victims of our life story.
Start your day appreciative of your chance to sleep. 
Say the words Good Morning- not only to yourself but to your family. 
Start your day with a smile and a prayer. 
(Something I work on daily as I prod my daughters to get up each morning, herding them to make their beds, pick up their clothes, remember everything they should have prepared before bed...etc)

I am finding out firsthand that we can start right where we are, right now, not by focusing on what brought us to where we are today but rather by practicing the following 10 tips as consistently as can be:

1. Be awed by life and take nothing for granted.
Train your thoughts and attention to things you appreciate. It does not have to be extraordinary.
A child's smile, hot steaming rice, a hug, the absence of a headache, a reliable car, a text, a cup of coffee, a herd of deer, sunshine, a comfortable bed, a green light, a piece of cake, a wifi connection, the sound of a good laugh, etc.

2. Be grateful.
Appreciate the good stuff but also learn to be grateful for the disappointments and the painful events because all of it, and I mean all-- are part of a much bigger picture. 
Set-backs and sorrow can become spring boards for change.
We can find something to appreciate in difficult situations if we look hard enough.

3. Forgive yourself and others.
Stop blaming your upbringing or your genetics or a past event.
Stop carrying a grudge or holding on to hatred.
Stop replaying negative experiences-- leave them in the past where they belong.

4. Be done with unhealthy habits.
Stop trying to please everyone and stop trying to control everything.
Stop dreading things and worrying about what has not happened yet, but when
unpleasant situations happen in the present--do not deny that they are in fact, unpleasant.
(Not facing it causes deeper problems in the future)

5. Stay on healthy airwaves.
We constantly broadcast and receive signals and vibrations from one another so choose what you send out and what you accept. 
What you think, ends up being what you feel.
Thoughts are our prayers, so think only of what you want.  
Surround yourself with whom and what you want to be.

My niece Erica shared a book with me called  The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.
It is a pretty concise and no nonsense approach to life. 
Practicing the following four agreements guide me as I strive to tell a better story:

6. Be impeccable with your words. 
Say only what you mean with truth and love.

7. Don’t take anything personally.
What others say and do is a reflection of what they feel about themselves.
When you stop taking things personally, you eliminate your suffering.

8. Don't make assumptions.
If you are unsure, ask for clarification. 
Assuming the worst leads to drama and misunderstanding. 
Learn to take things at face value because sometimes believing the best in people, bring out the best in people.

9. Always do your best
When we know that we have done our best, we eliminate regrets.
Regrets are insidious.

The last tip that has been helping me navigate through life is this:

10. Have Faith and Surrender the outcome. 
Trust that if you do your best to lead an authentic (and God-centered) life, that one day, all the pieces will fall into place.  
You will get exactly what you need at the exact time that you need it.

Decide on the story you want to tell and live each day in support of it.
Living a better story will make you a happier person and ultimately add more joy  to those you love and to the rest of the world.