I’ll preface this by saying that, I love How I Met Your Mother. I’ve watched the entire show twice through… and I’m on my third run. Something about the way they narrate and weave together stories helps ground me and remind me of what’s important whenever I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed.
And it’s made me realize that life is all about creating stories. Creating the right stories.
On an average day, most of my mental energy goes towards figuring out what I want to do next and achieve next. I’m always thinking about tomorrow, next year, even the next 5 years. And when everything is always about what’s next, it’s easy to get so caught up in my own head thinking about how to live that I forget to actually well, live.
Having stories mean you’ve done something, experienced something.
Stories are about sharing. Great stories are the ones you’ve shared with others, both when you were experiencing it and when you were retelling it.
But it’s also about creating the right stories. Punching someone in the face could be a story, but it’s not the right story. The right stories add to the path you’re on and bring you closer to where you want to be.
The right stories are the ones where you go down the wrong path but learn a great deal. Or the ones that make a difference to someone beyond yourself.
The people who’ve done the most in their lives and who are most satisfied with life have created the right stories. They have stories about the impact others made on them, the difference they’ve made in the world, insights they’ve discovered, lessons they’ve learned, and things they’ve experienced.
If you asked me how I became a doctor and I just told you, “Well Jim, I just decided I wanted to become a doctor, then I became one” it’s not a great story. There aren’t many insights or lessons learned, it’s a bland, straight path.
But what if I told you, “Well Jim, I had started off wanting to be a designer so I traveled to the Mediterranean to design boats that would help fisherman be safer in the ocean. But while I was there I realized how dire the medical situation was in poor rural areas where these fishermen were. The biggest threat to them wasn’t the ocean, it was viruses and infections! As I learned more and lived there longer, the idea of becoming a doctor grew on me so I came back to start my medical degree and well, here I am!”.
It’s a great story and the story comes from living and experiencing the world. The story comes from gaining insight on a major problem, finding a mission, and carrying out the challenge. It’s stories like these that help you grow as a person.
To build the life you want, you’ve got to make mistakes, change your mind, learn some lessons, and discover things for yourself.
Because sometimes you can’t plan out life, you’ve just got to go through it all and get a great story out of it. Focus on creating the right stories and the rest will fall into place.
“Look, you can’t design your life like a building. It doesn’t work that way. You just have to live it… and it’ll design itself.”
Lily Aldrin, How I Met Your Mother
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