Have you ever started a new job and immediately noticed all the things that needed improvement? All of the operating procedures that could be streamlined or tweaked to result in faster turn around time or greater efficiency?
I always had this happen to me when I entered a new work environment and was quick to ask questions about why things were done in certain ways. My problem after being in that environment for a period of time was that I got used to the procedures. I stopped innovating. It was no longer as easy for me to realize when things were outdated or needed improvement. It’s just “how things were done.”
If I’m not careful, the same thing starts to happen with my own personal story. I start operating on auto-pilot, becoming complacent, and stop questioning which behaviors are beneficial and which could be eliminated. I am existing, yes, but am I existing to my full potential? Learning how to critique your story is important not only for your own personal development, but also for achieving a sense of purpose and fulfillment day to day.
The following questions are a good starting point for assessing whether you are living an actionable life or simply one that involves waking up, eating, and sleeping. There are many ways to critique your story, but these are a great starting point.
What can I do with where I’ve been?
Everyone has a story and everyone can find something they relate to in someone else’s. Stories of perseverance, illness, success, and how we deal with life’s struggles are inspirations to other people and what shapes us as individuals.
What do you have to offer? How can you use your experiences to help others? Maybe you have a chronic illness like my friend Susie, but choose to live your life without limits and push past that adversity while also sharing those struggles with others. You’d be surprised at how many people can relate to something that you may not think is a big deal. I wrote about my discouragement with getting a credit card after the wreckage of my financial past and I received more comments than I thought from people who had been in similar situations.
Your experiences and how you got through them offers hope to those who may be in the same situation. What can you do with where you’ve been?
What can I do differently?
“It’s how I’ve always done things.” This is a phrase that I’ve found myself saying over and over again. It’s something that makes me feel comfortable because I’m not forced to change, but it’s also a quick way for me to fall back into close-minded thinking. This is a broad question that can be applied to so many facets of life from decision making to how you go about interacting with others on a daily basis.
For me, I ask myself this question most often when trying to accomplish a goal that is taking longer than I’d like. I can continue operating the same way and get the same results (which are often nonexistent), or I can learn to think outside the box and take another approach to achieving that goal. This is what I did when I changed careers after moving to Chicago and wanted to work in the fitness industry. Rather than apply to job after job, I decided to reach out directly to studio owners to see what opportunities there were. Almost a year later I’m now a personal trainer and fitness instructor at more than one studio in the city!
What is no longer working for me?
Reflect on your own story. What has worked for you and what hasn’t? What has gotten you positive results and what negative patterns do you find yourself repeating over and over again? Take some time to think about those behaviors or thought patterns that hold you back rather than lift you up and start taking steps to change those things.
It may help you you to physically write a list of what is no longer working for you or ask others who know you well what actions seem to be working against rather than for you. Sometimes it’s hard to look objectively at yourself, so asking someone whose opinion you value may help provide better insight.
What are my goals?
Although it seems cliche, ask yourself where you want to be in 5 years. 10? 20? Maybe even just 6 months from now. Living day to day helps us in the short term, but to really critique your story you need to take a look backwards AND forwards. Are you working towards something or are you merely existing?
Make a list and reference it often. This way you know where you are on your way to those goals and what actions need to be done to get there. Writing down those action steps will also prevent you from simply staring at a nebulous goal with no pathway to get there.
Ultimately, your life is yours to do with as you wish. Learning to critique your own personal story will help give you better insight into what’s working, what’s not, and what you need to do to live your life to the fullest.
Thanks to Amanda for letting me think out loud.