Right now, you are living your story.
One month, six months, or even five years from now you will be able to tell other people what happened to you, your family, your friends, and your business during the coronavirus pandemic.
Stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
We know the beginning.
Personally, I feel that we aren’t quite close to the middle yet.
One day, and not soon enough, there will be an end to this particular story in our lives.
Story vs Narrative
Stories are all about people and what happens to them. You are the hero in your story. That’s how you see the world. It’s also how everyone you know sees the world too. Through their own lens as the hero of their story.
A narrative is bigger than a story.
This is the overarching concept that we take with us when we react to circumstances and events. It’s the symbolic framework that you have built your life around.
Common narratives include the concept of the “American Dream”, or “Work Hard, Play Hard”, or “Do Unto Others”. Time for some deep thought here, what would you say your personal narrative was before the COVID-19 virus struck?
For many people, it is simply tied to their occupation. When that is taken away, people can react unpredictably and harshly.
Narratives, unlike stories sometimes don’t have a clear beginning, middle, or end. Our lives are made up of stories. Big stories, such as meeting the love of your life. Little stories, such as the trip to the grocery store. If you string enough of these stories together and connect them like a pearl necklace, sometimes that puts them in an order that we can relate to as people.
That often becomes the narrative of our life.
It’s those connections that color our framework on who we are, and what we think about ourselves. It’s the deep meaning that validates our work, what we like, who we are friends with, and what we hold dear.
Your Future Narrative
Right now is an interesting time in the world.
We are living through a Black Swan event, that is literally changing world history before our eyes. Although some people were better prepared for this than others, this disruption event will alter everything on this planet going forward.
I’ve been on the phone constantly since this crisis started with business owners, their staff members, my friends, family members, colleagues, and even complete strangers. Everyone wants to know about one thing.
We all are going to live through this. But simple facts point to the idea that not everyone will emerge the same way. Some businesses will close. Maybe that’s yours. There will be financial ruin. A staggering number of people will have health challenges, and face or even succumb to death.
But, most people will come out of this crisis more or less ok. My hope is that is you.
Why am I writing about story vs narrative? What does this have to do with you?
I want you to start thinking about the future. It’s easy to get caught up in the statistics of this event, conspiracy theories, political finger-pointing, and depressing doomsday mental scenarios that are running through our brains.
Instead, I want you to ask yourself a question that might shape your future narrative.
“What can I do right now?”
It’s An Action Question
You can not control the coronavirus. It’s not up to you to lift the Shelter in Place order. World leaders are not on the phone with you asking for your opinion, so stop talking to the tv.
The only thing you can control is your reaction to this event.
Are you getting busy?
The effort and action that you put in now, during this time of crisis will build the stories that will shape your future narrative coming out of the pandemic.
Will you tell stories that are loaded with empathy, caring, humor, and forward-thinking action? Or will it be based on the barrage of Facebook comments to the world that vented your frustration?
Your future narrative will be made of the stories that you develop during this time. My hope is that yours are filled with:
- …and lastly, Action
Embrace The Chaos
Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, my wish is that you can take this situation and somehow turn it into a positive opportunity. These may be all around you if you are open to trying something new.
Positivity quiets fear and uncertainty.
If you can stay focused on the positive things in your life that surround you, your brain will naturally turn off the mechanisms that make you afraid and uncertain. You will make better decisions, and you can focus on “what’s next?” and start building some momentum forward.
Just The Facts Ma’am
Take stock with what you know. Here’s a fantastic exercise to do right now.
Grab two sheets of paper. On one, jot down everything in your life that you absolutely can not control. Everything. The government, the virus, the shutdown, the way others are responding, whatever. Write it all down.
On the other page, list everything you can control. Again, everything. Your health, your attitude, what you eat, what you do all day, etc. Write it all down.
That first page lists everything that no matter how hard you try, you can’t affect it. Take that page and rip it in half and throw it away. Quit worrying about it. That action will relieve you of the stress caused by constantly feeding the anxiety about it.
The second page? The one with all of the things that you can control? That’s the page you focus on.
Your future narrative is on this page.
Lastly, I want you to target the three most important and critical goals in your life.
What are they? Can you name them? Throw those on that page mentioned above and write them in big red letters.
Maybe it is keeping your family healthy and together during this difficult time. It could be focusing on new business strategies for your company. Maybe it is doing a taste test of all of the snack foods in the house?
Just kidding, don’t do that.
Unless of course there are some Girl Scout cookies leftover in the back of the freezer that everyone missed. Thin Mints to the rescue!
Sorry, I’m having a quarantine moment here. Like, everyone, I’d imagine sooner or later.
So, pick the three most important goals and keep working on them. Build activities around them. Schedule time working on them. Whatever you do, don’t build a nest on the couch and watch tv all day. With the Thin Mints.
Let’s focus on building a better narrative that makes sense. Those daily stories matter, as they will be strung together like that pearl necklace to form the narrative of your future.
What can you start constructing today?
“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising after we fall.” – Confucious
“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” – Confucious
“The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.” – Confucious