The Lens of Story

A powerful lens you can use for making sense of life is the lens of story.

What’s especially powerful about story is that it beautifully integrates the objective and subjective lenses. There’s the objective side of a story, such as the settings, characters, and events. And there’s the subjective side, meaning your thoughts, feelings, and inner journey.

How could you apply the lens of story to help you make sense of complicated situations or decisions?

Here are some good questions to ask:

  • How does this fit my overall story?
  • Where does my story want to go next?
  • Which decision would make for interesting story? Boring story?

Imagine your life is one big story. Your story has a certain progression to it. Some next steps make sense because they fit your story. Other steps don’t make much sense because they don’t fit your story.

If you view your life thus far through the lens of story, as if you’d been reading it in a novel, what observations could you make about the overall story arc thus far?

When I look at my life through the lens of story, I can pick out certain progressions. There are patterns.

I see a pattern in my story where I’m often tempted to pursue a heartless path that might dangle some other carrots in front of me like success or fame or money. If I chase after those carrots, my character suffers because it never turns out well. Each time my character must recognize the trap and find a path with a heart instead. Then when he follows a path that feels strongly heart aligned, things work out very well both subjectively and objectively.

Another part of my story has involved learning to trust my own decisions even when they go against the grain of society… and then watching society slowly alter course to validate the decision.

And yet another part of my story has involved lightening up and learning to play. Tackle serious challenges, but still make the journey fun.

I encourage you to look for similar patterns in your own story arc. What were some of your most memorable experiences? How did they shape your character? How do you believe your story has shaped you? What kind of character are you playing now?

When I get stuck trying to figure out next steps, it’s often because my intended next steps don’t align well with my story arc. For instance, if I try to make and implement very head-centric, logically reasoned decisions, I usually meet with massive resistance when I try to apply them. One explanation could be that these decisions don’t align well with my story arc.

I have to accept that my story has been evolving me further in the direction of a character who’s driven to find and follow a path with a heart. So if I choose a logical path but it doesn’t feel particularly heart-aligned, meaning that I don’t get much emotional resonance from it, it’s as if the director of my story yells “Cut!” and calls for a rewrite.

But then when I finally lock onto a direction that feels strongly heart-aligned, and I feel lit up with enthusiasm to pursue it, even if the apparent logic of that path feels a little weak to me, my story tends to lavish me with rewards, and my proverbial director seems to be shouting, “Yes! Yes! YES!”

Are you stuck in any areas of life? Is it possible that you’re stuck because your own story arc is fighting you?

Pause and ask yourself, Where does my story want to go? Then listen internally for an answer. Let your mind wander. Imagine your inner director pointing and gesturing and yelling out where things are supposed to go next. What do you hear? What do you see? Where does your story want to go?

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Read The Lens of Story by Steve Pavlina