Take a moment to reflect on your life so far. When you do, it’s inherently in the form of a story, right? Not only when we recite that narrative to others, but also in how we personally construct who we are.
We’ve explored in that past that our sense of self is an illusion, and neuroscience reveals that there is no center in the brain where the self is constructed. Cognitive neuroscientist Bruce Hood puts it this way:
- “Who we are is a story of our self — a constructed narrative that our brain creates.”
There’s a fantastic article in The Atlantic that explores this topic, and it’s worth a full read. I’m going to depart from my usual summary style and provide you a few key excerpts to whet your appetite:
- “Life stories do not simply reflect personality. They are personality, or more accurately, they are important parts of personality, along with other parts, like dispositional traits, goals, and values,” writes Dan McAdams, a professor of psychology at Northwestern University, along with Erika Manczak, in a chapter for the APA Handbook of Personality and Social Psychology.
This brings to mind the personality research of Dr. Brian Little that we’ve explored in the past. Beyond the strong genetic and societal influences on our individual personalities, we extend and even transcend ourselves when we push ourselves further, whether you call them goals, projects, or quests.
This is how we grow as people, and enrich our story. We start off playing the roles others set for us until we begin to write our own stories with ourselves as protagonist:
- Pretty much from birth, people are “actors.” They have personality traits, they interact with the world, they have roles to play—daughter, sister, the neighbor’s new baby that cries all night and keeps you up. When they get old enough to have goals, they become “agents,” too—still playing their roles and interacting with the world, but making decisions with the hopes of producing desired outcomes. And the final layer is “author,” when people begin to bundle ideas about the future with experiences from the past and present to form a narrative self.
As I’ve said in the past, if what you are is really a story, how you choose to interpret that story is always within your control. Best of all, your story can be changed:
- A life story is written in chalk, not ink, and it can be changed. “You’re both the narrator and the main character of your story,” Adler says. “That can sometimes be a revelation—‘Oh, I’m not just living out this story, I am actually in charge of this story.’”
Who’s writing the script of your life? In other words, do you wait for things to happen, or do you make them happen yourself?
Take a moment to tell yourself a story about what you’d like to do next with your life. Be bold … be audacious … or simply commit to doing something that will bring you joy.
Now, get out there and make the story your reality.
- Life’s Stories: How You Arrange the Plot Points of Your Life
- The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life
- Me, Myself, and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being
Is Fitness Tracking Necessary?
“Do we really need these tech toys? Surely, with 10 million Fitbits alone sold in 2014, these wearable fitness coaches are motivating a lot of us to get moving, at least while all that data is shiny and new. But surprising new research shows that you might not have to look past your smartphone for cheaper (much cheaper) tracking that’ll get you moving.”
The Upside of the Downside
“Let’s just say it’s not all fun and games. At best, it can be as exhilarating as I described above; at worst, it can end in complete and utter financial ruin. And even though I would encourage people to venture out, it’s certainly not for everybody – and it shouldn’t be undertaken without careful planning and consideration.”
Stoic For the Win
“My favorite exercise is a little one that prepares us for the day ahead. It’s something you do each and every morning, before you check your phone and head out into the world. But it’s a little controversial as you’ll soon see.”
Happy Monday! Have a great week, and if you think someone you know could benefit from this issue of Further, please pass it along.