Your life story is important. Regardless of how you feel at any point in time, the impact that your life is having on the world and those around you is profound. The miracle is that you get to choose if your effect is profoundly positive or negative. Striving to live a life of significance can be hard work and at times, exhausting. Our spirits are willing but our minds and bodies, while otherwise distracted, can betray our very best intentions.
Recently, I attended a seminar that unpacked the power of stories and introduced hundreds of examples of how movies and stories shape and drive our beliefs as individuals and as a culture. A core theme of the seminar was the assertion that every movie can be broken down into seven observable parts:
- We are introduced to the story’s hero
- The hero is faced with a problem
- The hero meets a guide
- The guide gives the hero a plan
- The plan inspires the opportunity to take decisive action
- The inspired action leads the hero to success
- Or, if not acted upon, the hero fails
Because of my exposure to this curriculum, I have reawakened to the incredible power of stories. I have put approximately thirty of my favorite movies through the aforementioned progression and can confirm that each one fits, more or less into this simple formula. I never considered that Tommy Boy and Gladiator were basically the same movie–did you? You might have, but I missed the correlations between the characters’ motivations in the movies Braveheart and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
I love movies about personal transformation. To prove my point, it doesn’t matter what I am doing or where I pick up the story line of Shawshank Redemption, if it is on…I am watching it…no matter what! It tells a powerful story of redemption; good prevailing against evil, grace under extreme pressure, friendship, loyalty, personal integrity and valor.
What I had missed in my multitude of viewings of Shawshank until now was that the character of Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is not the hero, rather it is the character of Red (Morgan Freeman.) Andy, it turns out, is actually Red’s guide. He is a force of remarkable consistency and calls nearly everyone around him to transform… most especially Red. Each of us loves the guides as they are presented in movies. Each of us is drawn to their power and strength. Andy Dufresne, on some level is who each of us wants to be.
Now think about your life story. If Hollywood was to make a movie about your life, how would the story unfold? What problem is at the core of your life? What do you struggle with, whether externally or internally that is calling you to a deeper level of transformation?
Do you have a guide or guides in your life; individuals who have articulated for you a plan to rescue you from your unique desert island? Have you found the consistent force that empathizes with you and your pain? Do they have the authority and life experience to garner your trust and respect? Moreover, have you asked them to help you craft a detailed action plan for your life? If so, how is it working for you? If you haven’t, will you risk asking for their help and direction? When they offer you a plan, will you have the courage to follow it?
Everybody is good at something and nobody is good at everything. Find a guide to help you in your journey. Give up your need to appear as though you have it all figured out. It is OK to not have all the answers.
At various times, each of us is called to action…called to transform. The challenge to change beckons to us in various forms throughout life; broken relationships, a health scare, the loss of our job, being caught up in an addiction.
At every crossroad, we are prompted to choose. Will we act or deny Deep’s call to the deep inside each of us?
Fortunately, each of our movies is still being produced. The best news of all is that we get to be both the hero and the director of our personal production. If we don’t like how some part of our life is going, we can muster the gumption to step onto the set, storm into the scene and exclaim CUT…CUT…CUT! It’s always the right time to realign our life plan with our deepest convictions.
There is incredible power in unpacking and articulating the twists and turns in our lives. I hope you will take some time to reflect on your life story. Certain movies inspire and uplift us because they embody what we most want to happen in our own lives.
Be inspired to take decisive action by the power of your own life story.
Thomas “TD” Dierker
Live like you’re dying…. cause you are!