Do you have an ongoing voice in your head telling what you what you should do—and what you shouldn’t?
That voice which informs your innermost thoughts, feelings, and reactions is an outcome of your personal brand story—how you view yourself as the protagonist in your life’s ongoing narrative.
Many of us are content to just let things flow. We go with our gut, and we let our intuition determine how we think, act or behave.
Or as Forrest Gump famously said:
“Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
However, I believe that there is merit in shaping and molding our personal narratives. By scripting—or rescripting—our life’s story, we’re better able to face our fears, overcome bad habits, and stick to our preferred paths.
Guiding your personal brand story also helps you to build a bigger professional or personal portfolio. It aligns your sense of purpose and passion with your daily practice, allowing you to be plugged into what innately feels right and beneficial for you.
But how do you craft your life’s story so that the chapters which ensue will lead you to a better ending?
What practical steps can you take to align not only what you think and feel but how you act and behave with a consistent overall narrative?
Ponder Over Your Purpose
The first step you need to do is reflect on what your life’s purpose is.
Ask yourself these big questions:
- What are you placed on Earth for?
- What is your ultimate mission, vision or goal?
- What are the values that guides your behaviours and actions?
- How do you find meaning and fulfillment in what you do?
- How does enduring success look like to you?
- How would you want others to remember you?
Here, I’d like to suggest what many term the “Epitaph Test”—if you can craft the words on your tombstone, what would those words say?
For some, your purpose may be religiously or spiritually informed. For others, it could be in impacting as many lives around you in a positive way. Yet for others, this purpose could be sated though the ultimate quest for knowledge.
Envision Your Personal Plot Lines
Once you’ve determined your life’s bigger universal theme, your next goal is to consider the different plot lines (and sub-plot lines) that you go through.
If you imagine yourself as the protagonist in your story, the plot lines (or narrative arcs) could be the different adventures (or occasionally misadventures) that you as a character go through.
The objective here is to intentionally work out the different life scenarios before they happen. Doing so helps you to be better prepared when these events occur.
Here are some of the plot lines that you may wish to consider:
- Your Daily Story—how can you manage each day so that you can emerge ‘victorious’ (or at least not ragged and tattered) at the end of each 24 hour period?
- Life Transitions—what can you do to steer these important milestones in your life such as graduation, marriage, birth of a child, your first job, and retirement? How do you want these chapters of your story to end?
- Episodic Events—when unplanned for events occur—both positive and negative—what will your “alternative story” be like? How do you navigate your life’s journey around these events?
Anticipating what your different plot lines could be allows you to be more prepared for “plot twists”—unexpected detours that could derail you from your ultimate life goal.
Pre-empt Conflicts and Challenges
Thankfully, most of us do not lead “Hollywood movie” lives that are filled with more twists and turns that a snake-and-ladder game!
However, there will be occasions where disruptions occur in our personal quest for a “happy ever after.”
These obstacles could be in the form of a financial loss, health scare, strained relationships, job loss, or death of a loved one.
The way to pre-empt these threats to our mental and physical well-being isn’t to pretend that they aren’t there. Rather, we should anticipate them in our hearts and minds, and reflect on what we should do when the proverbial sh*t hits the fence.
Now this does not mean that we should end up fussing over all potentially negative events. Nor should we become like Chicken Little and imagine that the sky may be falling on our heads.
Rather, what we should do is to buffer enough financial resources, social capital, and mental resilience to power us through these dark and stormy waters.
Put People First in Your Story
No man (or woman) is an island. Every story worth writing and reading is filled with different characters.
This includes your own.
Some may be charming and cute—like your newborn daughter, or a blood brother’s son.
Others may be weird and quirky—like an old neighbourhood uncle who talks about strange otherworldly topics.
Yet others may be downright obnoxious or irritating—a relative who insists on persisting in questioning you about your single marital status/ career moves/ children’s academic performance/ expanding waistline.
While it may be natural for us to want to “vanquish our foes” in our personal tale, I believe that it’ll be much more fulfilling to treat everybody with care rather than contempt.
Give others the benefit of the doubt. It is OK to let them win—at least, do not try to justify your lifestyle, actions or beliefs all the time.
As Gandhi himself has famously said: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”
Life and let live. Your life will be so much the sweeter.
Conduct Course Corrections (Occasionally)
Periodically, make it a habit to press the pause button in your story. Halt your narrative, and critically review your performance.
Ask yourself—in freeze-frame if you will—how your circumstances are like in the present moment.
Do a personal brand story audit, and ask yourself the following questions:
- Is my story progressing along the right track?
- Are my daily tasks, weekly work, and monthly milestones aligned to what I hope my final chapter would be?
- Am I moving closer (or further away) from my ultimate goal?
- Which areas have I done well so far?
- Which areas require me to “reboot” so that I can better achieve my life’s goal?
- Is the very purpose which I’ve determined the right one for me? Should I redefine who I am and what I am placed here for?
Any form of course correction that you have to do mid-stream in your life is going to be uncomfortable. For some, it may even be painful.
After all, we humans prefer to stick to our established routines and rituals—sudden shifts in our schedules could be jarring.
However, obstinately sticking to your course when a giant iceberg starts appearing in front of you is pure insanity. You need to make a pivot.
(I did, and if you’d buy me coffee, I’ll tell you how and why.)
Shape Your Self-Talk
There is power in the words that you speak to yourself—what we call your “self-talk.”
If you find that your self-talk is filled with negative or defeatist language—”I cannot do this,” “I’m too weak for this,” “I’m limited by my lack of education,” or “I don’t have the right connections”—you need to change your inner vocabulary.
Turn your language from resignation to rock-star dom…\
- Instead of saying “Are you sure you can do it? Maybe you don’t have the talent”–say “I’m not sure I can do it now, but I think I can learn to with time and effort.”
- Instead of saying “If you don’t try, you can protect yourself and keep your dignity”–say “If I don’t try, I’ll automatically fail. Where’s the dignity in that?”
- Instead of saying “This would have been a snap if you really had talent”–say “That is so wrong. Basketball wasn’t easy for Michael Jordan and science wasn’t easy for Thomas Edison. They had a passion and put in tonnes of effort.”
The End (or The Beginning?)
Let us recap the different strategies which you can apply in crafting, and implementing a winning personal narrative:
- Zoom in to your exact purpose in life
- Define your different plot-lines and sub-narratives in the course of your life
- Pre-empt challenges, conflicts and catastrophes through adequate preparation
- Put people first in your life–allow them to play a positive part in your story
- Take stock and pivot where necessary
- Work on your self-talk–adopt a growth mindset (not fixed mindset)
I hope that these 6 steps can help you to gain a better perspective of your life. By thinking of your life as an overarching narrative, you’re better able to write winning chapters and beautifully crafted pages in your book of life.
Are you living your dream life now? If not, what can you do change your personal brand story and life narrative?