Speaking of story, I just started going through Don Miller’s Creating Your Life Plan (which is on sale right now at his blog, but then goes away forever at midnight on the 13th). The course takes you through ten modules looking at the events of your life and the trajectory, finding themes in the story of your life so far, and planning out what kind of story you want to live going forward. (And if you haven’t read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, do it now – this ties in with it.)
I’m only on the first two modules, and already I’m plunged into thought. The first module asks you to list all the major life turns you’ve had, whether it be a success, a loss, a second chance – something that made you “walk through a doorway you can never walk back through.” You make a list of positive turns and negative turns, rating them according to how positive or negative they were. Module two is plotting those events out on a timeline. You then are able to look at your life and come up with a theme. (More guidance can be found here, for those who would like to try this.)
I wrote down all my life turns, and looked at them, and thought, “Is this it? Did I do it right?” There were the obvious life turns – losing my dad, meeting some key people in my life, getting hired at HBS – and there were some surprises, events that happened that I do still feel changed the course of my life but which I don’t normally think about. But I felt like I was missing items. Ok, my trip to Israel was a life turn, but reading Moby-Dick and To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time were life turns for me too – do I put those? Should I put the mental items in? I marked down “Watching the Matrix,” which started me on a philosophical/theological awakening, but do I put down the juice fast I did in 2013, because that started my journey to plant-based eating? What shocked me was a lack of trajectory or theme running through it; I knew my life took detours, but it’s obvious that there are wanderings from a path started long ago. What also shocked me were the things obviously missing from the timeline. There’s a significant lack of personal accomplishments – running my 5k being the only one on the list – and there’s the glaringly missing huge one: no book published. But I do have personal/professional/creative achievements (writing a training manual for a bank, helping organize Yom Yerushalayim, organizing the Zealous8:2 national conference, successfully executing a student blog at HBS, starting the Boston Book Blog), but I didn’t mention those – why?
Which begs the question: Which story am I telling about myself? (Is it possible I’m making a B story an A story, and the A story the B story? To Kill A Mockingbird, after all, was not about Boo Radley.)
I recently wrote down a list of my values (if you haven’t done that, I highly recommend you do!). I looked at my timeline and looked at my values, and asked if the events I had listed there reflected my values. I can’t say they did. Not necessarily.
So what now? I’m going to think about this. What are my life turns? What is my theme? And where do I want this thing to go? I’m going to think about it and let you know!