Write the Happy Ending First
They feel like the end.
You get turned down for that job about which you’ve been fantasizing.
Your prospective client passes on your lovingly-crafted proposal.
Your boss doesn’t comprehend the brilliance of your cool, new idea.
Another beautiful bubble of possibility, popped by the cruel pin of disappointment. Ouch. Crap. Oh well. So it goes, you say. Just like our friend Taylor, you shake it off. Clearly, it was not meant to be. Onward and upward and all of that. But what if it isn’t the end?
What if the sting of rejections isn’t the final scene, but just the kind of second-act dramatic tension that makes the glorious victory at the end so satisfying? What if you’re just in the “behind” part of your own, come-from-behind story?
Bestselling author Laura Day has this awesome exercise called “Reality Tales” that she uses in her book, The Circle (really inspiring and practical – do yourself a favor and get it). Reality Tales is a journaling exercise in which you write out the story of how you bring your dream reality to fruition. Laura says, and I can attest to this, that writing out the details of your Reality Tale helps create a kind of mental, energetic map that you can then follow to transform your dreams into the daily business of your life.
I have often used this exercise in times of great disappointment to refocus my energies on what I want rather than what I fear. A few years ago, I was working as a consultant and had one client who with a starring role in my near-term financial plans. It was the end of the year, and I had begun to think through the key things I wanted to accomplish in the following year. Finances had been tight, and I resolved that in the new year, I would kick it up a notch in terms of my financial health. It felt good to think along those lines and I felt motivated. I went into the holidays with a renewed sense of purpose and hope, with specific goals of how much money I wanted to earn per month and a vision for how I wanted to add value (you see where this is going, don’t you?) Well, December 26th, I got a call from my client letting me know that the work would be ending at the end of January. Not the ending I was hoping for.
Lucky for me, it wasn’t the end. As I worked to stave off my panic and wiped my nose compulsively from the stress-cold I had gotten, I decided to write out a Reality Tale. I wrote out a description of how I’d like my life to be. The kind of work I wanted, the kind of schedule I needed, what kind of impact my work had, and the kind of money I would earn.
As I wrote down the steps I would take to make my dreams my daily reality, I felt things settle into an exhilarating clarity. I made a promise to myself that losing this job would end up being one of the best things that ever happened to me. I recast myself from the luckless victim of a cruel fate to the plucky heroine of my own adventure.
And then I got to work. Cue the montage from every sports movie ever made where the protagonist silently submits to grueling feats of physical endurance, set to inspirational music. When you watch it, it takes three minutes. When you live it, it takes an eternity. Not only is this work hard, but you do it while having no real clue if your efforts will end in victory or sore muscles and crushed dreams.
I met with people. I told them what I brought to the table and what I wanted in return. I asked them for stuff. I got myself training. I signed up for classes and I applied for jobs. Keeping my Reality Tale in mind, I pursued any and every option I felt might bring me closer to the kind of life I wanted to live. And three months and dozens of informational interviews, networking coffee dates and job applications later, I found myself starting work at what would turn out to be the job of my dreams. A job, by the way, that had me making $200.00 more a month than what I had imagined in my Reality Tale. Not too shabby, right?!?!
Now, life is not a sports movie. Montages aren’t just short, poetic interludes of grit and determination; they are the places where we take the tedious actions and make the hard decisions that make up a life. They are awkward, they are unglamorous and, mostly, we live them without any certainty that they’ll end up happily. But there is one more cool difference between someone else’s fairy tale and the stories we make of our own lives: We get to decide whether it’s the end, or just a whole new chapter.
How do you want to write the story of your life?
Photo credit: Pixapopz on Pixabay
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