You have a story. It has twists and turns, heroes and villains. Your story informs your future. It’s made of lessons learned, relationships formed, rivers crossed, bridges burned, and battles fought. It definitely enlightens your future course. It taught you who you’d like on your crew. You learned what to pack and what to leave behind. You experienced storms and survived. You’ve lost the wind in your sails and been adrift. Maybe you even wrecked and were forced to abandon ship. This is your story and it informs your future.
Where did you come from? You have a beginning. It was set in a place and a time. It molded you and you most definitely altered it. It was family and friends and community. It was faith and values; school and neighborhood; catastrophe and victory. It’s part of the heritage that established your foundation. It’s likely your family instilled the values in you that are foundational to who you are and continue to be a framework that both strengthens and constrains. They are often the pillars and cornerstones of success and failure. You can choose what to build your future on and what to discard as unwanted material. Remember where you came from!
How did you get here? You are on a journey. There were paths you took and rivers that carried you away. There were bumpy trails and smooth highways; passing lanes and wayside rests; warning signs and stop signs; forks in the road; detours and road blocks. There was pleasure and pain in the journey. You met highwaymen and hitchhikers. You experienced sunny days and stunning views; icy roads and blinding rain. You witnessed road rage and random acts of kindness. So, how in the world did you get here?
Who influenced the person you have become? Influencers, we’ve all had them. The careful “measure twice and cut once” craftsmen; the “in your face” coach; the motivator and the de-motivator; fathers and mothers; brothers, sisters and grandparents. Teachers both shape and learn from their students. Someone has invested their time, talent, and treasure in you. Your thinking has been challenged. Your eyes have been opened. You have received great advice and terrible recommendations. You have been influenced. Someone has influenced who you are today.
What milestones mark the path you’ve taken? There are places and times that your mind returns to, events that set everything else in place. You return to them for reference. Things and people are either “before” or “after” these milestones. They’re a move, a place, a wedding, birth, or parting. There are signposts and monuments in our memories that remind us where we’ve been. Some we return to for inspiration, others warn us away like a lighthouse towering over a dangerous shoal. Sometimes we choose to return and remember. Sometimes these markers intrude without invitation, stark and bold, emblazing themselves into our present situation, inviting us to remember where we’ve already been, warning and encouraging us towards a better future. What milestones draw you back to a formative lesson along your path less traveled?
What defines you? You have a definition as though you were listed in Webster’s dictionary. It’s an identity and it strikes to the heart of who you are. It’s perhaps a career or a relationship. It’s something that has stayed part of you even after its time has come and gone. It could be an emotion or an event. It’s what gets you up in the morning and what keeps you awake at night. It’s your essence. Definitions are not carved in stone. They tend to change over time. They might be different in changing contexts. What defined you in the past may not continue to define you in the future. Some of your definition is out of your hands. Some of your definition is formed of chosen responses to the things out of your control. We are defined by events, by others, and by our choices. Some craft their own definitions out of pure force of will—forming and fighting for the definition of their choice no matter the odds, bent on defining themselves. “Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are” is a definition. Sometimes definitions are easy to grasp, sometimes challenging. We change and so our definition changes, but something defines us and that something will guide our future. Today, what defines you?
Your story is about where you came from and how you got here. It’s about the people who influenced you and the milestones you’ve reached. Your story contains the elements of what defines you. Your story certainly informs your future. Thinking about your story is a great way to prepare for what comes next. It’s a jumping off point for the next chapter in your story. There will be new twists and turns. It’s now the backstory, the prequel to where you’re going. When you choose to set goals and plan for your future your story is one of the main voices that inform your goals and plans.