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Write your life story

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Life is what happens when you are busy making plans.

You may have heard this saying. We have all had unexpected events in our life; things we hadn’t anticipated; things that didn’t fit the “plan”. Death of a loved one. Divorced. Job Loss. Sickness. This does not mean that the plan is destroyed. This means that we need to take charge of our own story and determine how these events will impact the rest of our narrative. After all, we want to be the authors of our own life stories.

According to social psychologist Roy Baumeister, “What sets humans apart from animals is not the pursuit of happiness, which occurs all over the natural world, but the pursuit of meaning, which is unique to humans.” So how do we give meaning to our life? Author Emily Esfahani Smith lays down 4 pillars of meaning: belonging, purpose, transcendence and storytelling.

A sense of belonging is essential to our well-being, but it can be difficult to achieve in the kaleidoscope of life experience. Today, 1/3 of Americans over 45 report feeling lonely. Loneliness takes its toll on our psychological and physical health, so it is essential to treat it seriously. The first step is to create a positive internal dialogue. Treat yourself like a dear friend, with compassion, love, and support. Celebrate your strengths. Then get out of your head and out of your home and start making more and deeper connections.

A lot of us get a career goal, but where do we find it outside of our workplace? A sense of purpose doesn’t have to be grand to be meaningful; we cannot all be a Mother Teresa. It can be a series of small steps towards a goal like being helpful to others, making a difference in the community, or raising a happy family. Use your strengths and put them at the service of others. Write yourself the story of how you can make your world a brighter and better place, and make it so.

Another component of meaning is the experience of fear, mystery or transcendence. We can find these moments in nature, prayer, meditation or even in a concert hall. These transient experiences are difficult to put into words, but the experience tends to be lasting. In a state of transcendence, worry and fear disappear and we feel deeply connected to something greater. Most of all, it helps us define ourselves in terms of something bigger than ourselves, giving deeper meaning to our lives.

Which brings us to the storytelling. Our stories can help us find meaning and purpose even in loss. Revisiting our history gives us the power to make every goal we set for ourselves easier to achieve. This new exercise routine: is it a daily struggle you hate, or is it an uplifting and energizing path to better health and more joy? Has this divorce destroyed your life or created an opportunity to become a more open, loving and thoughtful person? Take a look at your story. Should it be revised? Do it and discover the meaning, purpose and success that new stories can create.


What’s your story?

Trena Winans and Marilyn Brooks are two of more than 120 local residents who have graduated with a Wellness Science certificate. Winans is the Director of Education and Outreach at Senior Services – Midland County Council on Aging. Brooks is a retired educator. This year, the Midland Area Wellbeing Coalition continues to provide a series of monthly articles featuring practical ways to improve wellbeing. Visit midlandareawellbeing.org for more information.


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