Read this story slowly, preferably while you are alone.
‘A man was once walking alone down a road that looked never-ending. He was walking to forget about the pain his heartbreak had caused. All that love looked relentlessly over-rated. He felt for his loss but was happy that it was not as bad as it could have been, in case this was to happen. 2 more years into the relationship.
He had forgotten the joy of life and everything else because of her – she meant everything to him. He could almost see her smile and tease him. ‘Why?’ He asked himself, ‘What did I not do for her?’ He exhaled, and still.
He was wandering directionless like a toddler and yet he was 40. He was feeling lonely like an orphan but he had friends who cared. He was behaving as if he was homeless, although he had a house to live in, he looked at strangers as if he wanted to beg death out of them while he was healthy, wealthy and well to do.
What happened? I asked.
And he looked at me as if he was the judge and I was guilty. Anger on his face was evident but in no time it turned into resentment, then regret and finally fear. I asked again since he looked quite disturbed but it almost looked like his words were stuck in the lump on his throat.
He came through and murmured slowly, ‘ It was Lucy, she died – She was only 6 months old, a beautiful bitch <Female dog…literally!>.’ No pun intended and no disrespect meant but think about all the different emotions you experienced in snippets while you read this story. Especially the restlessness to conclude at the end.
That is the power of a story. While words reach your mind and music reaches your heart; Stories seem to have the ability to reach into the soul.
This is what led me to believe that maybe there is an answer to the eternal question, ‘What is your purpose in life?’.
A lot of great people, religions and even books have answered this very question over and over again. There are tonnes of different explanations, suggestions and perspectives hidden in them but there is one thing common –
Every answer is about you being able to find or craft your story.
Let’s take look at Gita – A religious Hindu text which quotes : “Karmanye Vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana, Ma Karma Phala Hetur Bhurmatey Sangostva Akarmani”
Meaning: Do your duty and be detached from its outcome, do not be driven by the end product, enjoy the process of getting there.2:47 SRIMAD BHAGAVAD GITA.
Who knows if it actually ever happened, but surprisingly every religion encourages its followers to find their own cause for existence. Some do it blatantly and others are subtle, it is suggestive and at times even prescriptive. Some call it baptism and some call it moksha. Different means to the same end – Finding a story to live in.
Even the non-believer believes it because the fact that he disagrees with the idea of religion was born after a thought entered his mind and altered his belief. That thought could have been an incident, could have been emotion, could have been a discussion or even a tragedy, whatever it was, it would have been a story to tell.
Stories are everything but fiction. They are a reflection of life, feelings and even freedom. They are learning and wisdom. They grow and they breathe. They have vision and emotions. There is not a single soul that doesn’t share one or hears one. Stories are life because life is a story. And the funny bit is, stories are more human than humans will ever be. Coming back to the eternal question, ‘ What is your purpose in life? ‘ My answer is: ‘Finding my own story’
People do it all the time but only a few realize it. When they attempt to change the way they look, the place they work or the thoughts they have, it just about becoming the right character. Different twists and turns and sometimes even the unexplained behaviour is just the outcome of the way they see their story to be.
The only thing big enough to summarize life is a story because we are the stories we tell. The only question is ‘How can you find your story?’
Here are some things I would do, they are yours to try, I am convinced to use it as a management concept and maybe to assist people in the long run too, I call it ‘Story-Boarding’
Choose your character: Who are you?
1. It’s not personality development, it’s about comfort. It is about being able to be in your skin with ease and away from the constant ruffle of trying to become like someone else.
2. Just like in a movie, the director can decide which elements would he want in a hero and in what quantity, we too can choose what our character needs to be – You can be a creator, an enabler, a catalyst, a thinker, a dreamer and even a monk if you choose to (Don’t sell your Ferrari). It doesn’t even have to be all rosy and goody (We know that even Batman can be Jealous). The keyword is real and the objective is to be comfortable.
Find your plot: What do you want to do?
1. Every great story has a great plot. It is important that you are inspired to do what you intend to. Inspiration is the only thing that is not on sale. So, trying out different things until something appeals to you enough for you to spend your life with it, is a good idea.
2. Another way that may work out is looking back at your childhood and finding your happiest moment – see what were you doing at that precise instance and maybe that is a career option. You can even make a career in things that you don’t like to talk about much. Pun intended.
The only factor is, it should be something that drives you crazy enough to not give it up.
Set your climax: How will you reach fulfilment?
Draw a picture of how the climax of your story will look like. Pay attention to detail and explain the picture in words using crisp bullet points. See it every day, twice, without fail. Once you achieve it, draw another one and move on. There is no time limit, age limit or any limit on possibility. It is just a story after all.
Arguably, your list of things to do can be endless and fulfilment hard to stay forever but thankfully life is not endless, and that is why the journey is the story. The story is the purpose of life as all of what one can leave behind is a story to be shared and heard. Because, again, there is not a single soul that doesn’t share one or hears one.
Even if these steps can’t freeze your story, they will at least bring you a tad bit closer to realizing it. No story can be told the same way twice, your story is and will be your story, others can be similar but never the same. And if you can not find it yet, here is a little story that might help.
This is an old Greek fable about a scholar who went to Socrates.
He travelled the length of the world and learned about all the wisdom available, his name was Cicero and he went to Socrates in an attempt to learn what no one else could teach him.
Once Socrates found this out, he refused to teach Cicero. He begged, pleaded and finally managed to convince Socrates to at least hear his plea.
Walking by the seashore, Cicero was trying to convince Socrates to be his mentor when suddenly the wise Socrates walked chest-deep into the sea.
Cicero walked behind him and stopped. Socrates looked into his eyes and asked Cicero, ‘what do you want?’ To this Cicero replied, ‘I want your wisdom and I want to learn’. Socrates smiled, pushed Cicero inside water and forcefully kept him there for a while.
Once he came out of the water and had almost lost his breath, Socrates asked again, ‘what do you want?’ Cicero realized it was a test of some kind and loudly replied, ‘I want your wisdom and I want to learn’ only louder this time.
On hearing this, Socrates pushed him into the water again and let him stay there longer. Once Cicero came out of the water, he was panting heavily and had almost drowned; Socrates asked again, ‘What do you want?’ Cicero knew that it was a test of some kind and replied in an even louder voice, ‘I want your wisdom and I want to learn’. Socrates smiled again and pushed Cicero back into the water.
This time Socrates pushed him hard until Cicero fought his way out, panting and pale, unable to understand Socrates’ behaviour. Socrates asked him again, ‘what do you want?’ Cicero arrogantly answered ‘I want to breathe’!
Socrates smiled and said, ‘the day you want to learn as bad as you wanted to breathe, come back to me and I will teach.’
Moral: When you really want to find your story – you will! Until then Keep looking.
The footer photograph – A picture I took in 2018, an unreal place, seemed like it was out of a painting or a dream and I did not almost go there, but then I did and realized what I would have missed! Both choices were equally mine…
It seemed like ‘choices’ which are independent of situations generally, become our way of validating the story we have not yet become. We just use our situations to justify these choices and that is where we miss out on playing our full game, at our full potential! My invitation to you is to think not so much about ‘What is…’ but almost exclusively about ‘What if’ and craft your story.
I firmly believe that every life is a story worth telling. Some are just too short and some more of a thriller than others but each one of them is a story none the less.
Over the last one year, I have been telling my life story to people in my first meeting pretty much, in return I ask that they tell me something if they feel comfortable to.
Some of my first meeting conversations have had literally total strangers telling me about…
1. Their biggest fear of being ridiculed because they will say something thay is not smart enough
2. Going through a painful divorce
3. Crying after their parents death for the first time in years
4. Sharing thay they have broken someone else’s trust and how
5. Regret of not being around enough to see their children grow up and now feeling alienated
Why? Because I am tired of superficial conversations, dumb plesentaries and formal peacocking. Aren’t you?
So, if you had to share your life story , your identity, in 5 lines or less – What will you say? Leave your answers in comments