Story: 3 Unsurpassed Ways to Ruthlessly Edit Yours For a Superior Life
The Power of Editing Our Story
For many years, our life as a story has fascinated me. I am passionate about the idea that our past or present story does not dictate the way our story ends. The stories of our lives define us. We have a past, present and future story. The past does not… Click To Tweet
Before I started my career as a Navy Chaplain, I worked for three years as a pastor in a large faith-based drug and alcohol addiction recovery program. I managed staff and guided the program of seventy men who had struggled with years long addictions. When I started my work in the program, I needed to frame my work, the staff work, and the role of program students. After much thought, reading, prayer and reflection, I came up with an idea I called 3 Stories: My Story, Their Story, God’s Story.
It was my idea that for a variety of reasons the stories of our lives had intersected in this recovery program, and that God’s story was over us. The stories of our lives allowed us to speak into each other’s lives. God’s story of redemption meant several things. No students should leave the program without:
- Redemption from their addiction
- Healing for their past
- Hope for their present and future.
All of us would still live with uncertainty about how our stories will end. God’s redemption gave us the ability to edit the present reality of our stories, and the opportunity to effect change in the outcome of our story.
Story has the power to change our lives. We live in the present moment with a past story. The past affects our present reality. And it can hinder us from having the best future reality. Editing out story can have a positive impact on our life story in three ways. We must:
- Live in the past?
- Live in the now
- Live with the end in mind
As I will show below, editing our life story is powerful. We can change our story. The past should not control over our present and future reality. Removing its power from our lives requires ruthless editing. Every person should ruthlessly edit their story because of the benefits.
Live in the past?
In my work, I often converse with people whose past has profound effects on their present reality. There are several effects I see:
- Inability to form trusting relationships
- Settling for less than the best
- Lack of life skills
The effects of the past are profound. It is my goal in each conversation to leave the person with the idea that the past does not to affect their future. Let’s say that green marbles signify advantages in life, and red marbles signify disadvantages. Some people receive more green marbles at birth and throughout their journey into adulthood. Many of us receive lots of red marbles at birth and more throughout the stages of childhood. Life’s unfairness is not easily dealt with. We might have questions like these:
- “Why did their family have money and mine didn’t?”
- “Why didn’t I go to better schools like they did?”
- “Why did I to go through abuse in my childhood and they didn’t?”
We have to deal with tragic injustices from our past life. Injustices like physical, emotional or sexual abuse. Bullying might have happened in school. Perhaps the tragedy of divorce robbed us of a healthy relationship with both of our parents. If we had these injustices happen, it’s important to work toward understanding how the injustice has affected our inner self. And we will have to work toward forgiving the perpetrator. It is a hard to take a deep inner look.
It is common for those who experienced deep wounding to put the event in a box and throw away the key. The tragic event keeps us locked up in it like a vice… and it affects our life in negative ways. I believe that until we dig up what is causing the pain, we cannot truly be free. Injustices I described are like leeches on our bodies. Until we rip off the leeches, they continue to suck the blood out of us and cause us to live defeated lives. Until we acknowledge our painful experiences, they will continue to cause defeat in our lives.
The most important step is coming to terms with the past events in our lives. Until we deal with the past, we cannot move to the other steps.
Live in the now
The second step in editing our story is to commit to living in the now. I live with regrets. These regrets might be things I did, things I should have done, decisions I made, or broken relationships. These large areas are encompassing of many of the sources of regrets. Several had life altering consequences whether for good or bad. Decisions I made years ago affect the life I live today. I could live in regret and stew in the choices I made in my early adult life. There is a better way to live.
I live in the now. I allow my past to inform my present in positive ways. We can learn lessons from bad choices. We look back with twenty-twenty hindsight. In my older adult years, I can see how foolish many of my earlier decisions were. And I can learn lessons. I can live my best life now.
In my present work, I sit with people who speak of regrets for decisions they made. Decisions with dramatic life and career altering impact. These people regret decisions made in a moment. In the conversation, I spend a good amount of time seeking to understand the life that led to the decision. I seek to understand how the person’s past harmed their present reality. It is my goal to help the person begin the journey of coming to terms with the past. After, we discuss how they can live in the now. It is my belief that before we can live fully in the present, we must deal with the past.
How do we live in the now? One of the best ways is to live our present lives with the end in mind.
Live with the end in mind
I am a husband of one wife and a father of two children. I think often of the legacy I want to leave for them. How do I want people to remember me after I am gone? This may sound morbid. But stay with me. A great way to check the impact of our present is to consider our legacy. I ask questions such as these:
- How are my present behaviors impacting those I love most?
- How are my present behaviors affecting those with whom I work?
- Are my present relationships encouraging me to live a productive, whole life?
- Am I making right financial decisions to prepare for the future I want for myself and for my family?
My father died several years ago at the age of 63. He was too young and full of life to die. I remember attending the viewing the night before the funeral. The number of people there moved me. Many said my dad had made a profound impact on their life. In the weeks and months after his funeral, I reflected on the legacy he had left for my brother, sister and me. I lived with the profound reality of his important legacy I was leaving for those I love.
A helpful question to ask is, “How will this question affect my future?” During my first tour as a chaplain, a wise Sergeant Major of Marines wrote that we need to consider the first, second and third-order effects of decisions:
- How the decision will affect me in the present (first order).
- How the decision will affect me in the future (second order).
- How the decision will affect those that care for me (whether they be family, friends or co-workers).
Whenever I speak with young people, I remind them that the decisions they make today will affect their future. I tell them that at my age, I have the hindsight of over thirty years since I turned eighteen. I can see how past decisions affect my present. When looking with hindsight, we see impacts of decisions made long ago.
Living our best story involves three things:
- Live in the past?
- Live in the now.
- Live with the end in mind.
Most of us have experiences to overcome. When we do a good job of overcoming the negative power of difficult circumstances, we live better in the present. The power of a positive present reality is that we are better able to consider how our actions… Click To Tweet
Effective writing includes much editing. There is more power in the finished product when we edit well. The same is true of our lives. When we edit our lives, we live better lives and we’ll leave a better legacy for those we love.
Friend, what are you doing to edit the story of your life? What proactive steps can you take to:
- Come to terms with the past?
- Live better in the present?
- Better live with the end in mind?
I am a Christ-follower, husband to Vicki and father to Liahna & David. I serve in the Navy as an active duty Chaplain. In my work, I offer spiritual care and religious support to military members. I am a writer, an avid reader, enjoy staying fit and living an active lifestyle. Follow me on Twitter: @chapswoodard. I post once each week here at http://www.gregorywoodard.com.