Reading: The Power of Your Own Story: 5 Ways to Discover the Value of Each Chapter
By: Anne-Marie Faiola (Forbes Books Author)
As human beings, we create our sense of identity from the stories we tell about ourselves. Our brains are structured to shape narratives that make sense out of life—this happened first, then that happened, and then this happened. In reality, life is much messier than that, of course. When we look back, we see random paths that rambled off to the side, odd little side trips and depressing dead ends, all of which seem irrelevant to the BIG story we present to ourselves and to the world.
So we try to edit out a few chapters that seem unnecessary to the main plot. We may accept the story that others tell us about ourselves, rather than finding our own genuine version. I’ve discovered, however, that all the chapters of my own unique life have value I continue to use today.
One example, a chapter in my life I could easily overlook, is the Hamster Chapter. When I was a teenager, I adored my pet Russian dwarf hamsters so much that I was convinced other people would love them too—so I decided to breed and sell my hamsters all around the area where I lived. That may sound like the weirdest idea ever for a business, but it actually worked. There was a demand for what I had to offer, and the orders kept coming in!
To take advantage of overlooked chapters in your own life, here are five things you can do:
- Think back on your life, and intentionally pull out a happy chapter from your childhood or adolescence, something you’ve almost forgotten because it now seems so unimportant. As you retell the story—mentally, on paper, or in a conversation with a friend—notice what you liked most throughout this experience. What was it that made you happy? Can you find a way to bring it into your present life?If, for example, your story is about going to the library as a child, maybe it’s time to check out your local library today. But go a little deeper than that. What was it about the library that you liked so much when you were young? Maybe you loved opening up a book and learning something new—is it time for you to open yourself to new ideas in a similar way today? You could consider going back to school or taking a few classes; maybe you could research a specific topic online; you might make an effort to listen to others’ stories to discover things that have never occurred to you. You never know what all this new information will lead to—a new marketing opportunity, a new product line, or a new direction for your life.
- Look back at your life and notice the chapters you find most exciting. Richard Branson, the Virgin founder, believes that the things that make us most excited about life are also the building blocks for good businesses. “When you believe in something,” he says in an interview published on the Virgin website, “the force of your convictions will spark other people’s interest and motivate them to help you achieve your goals. This is essential to success.”
- Branson also offers advice for considering the random loose ends in your life, those side paths that seemed to lead nowhere. “Try to understand what motivated you to think in that direction in the first place,” he says. “The passion behind your idea might lead you to the business or industry that you truly care about.” What looked like a dead might actually be a gateway to a new path.
- Think about something you did as a child or adolescent that made you feel good about yourself. It might have been something as small as getting a 100 on a difficult exam—or as big as overcoming a physical challenge. This story of personal pride has real, practical use in your present-day life. Psychologists have found that reminding yourself of past successes increases the likelihood you’ll do well in the future.
- Not all memories are pleasant, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have value. Think back to a time you failed at something you attempted to do. Instead of cringing with embarrassment or beating yourself over the head for whatever happened, take a moment to look at this chapter of your life from a new angle. What life lessons did you learn through the circumstances? How can you put them to use today?
If you had asked me back when I was a teenager what I would be when I grew up, I would never have guessed I would build a successful business out of making soap. All those long-ago chapters, however—including the Hamster Chapter—led me to the business that gives me so much joy and satisfaction today. An extraordinary personal story wasn’t what allowed me to succeed. It was simply putting to good use my own unique story.
You too have your own one-of-a-kind story. So claim it. Put it to use in your life today.
Anne-Marie Faiola is a successful entrepreneur, author, crafter, lifestyle coach, mom, and founder and CEO of Bramble Berry Handcraft Provisions. Founded in 1998, Bramble Berry is now a multimillion-dollar industry leader serving over sixty thousand customers worldwide in the area of DIY projects, resources and inspiration for fellow crafters, and business advice from the trenches. Her latest business venture is Best Day Ever, the all-inclusive lifestyle brand with one unifying message: happiness is a choice. Faiola holds an MBA, is a certified nutritional therapist, and is passionate about an always-learning/always-challenging lifestyle. In addition to business, she sits on a variety of nonprofit boards and enjoys contributing to her community. For more information, visit anne-mariefaiola.com.