Have you been thinking about telling your personal story lately? Or perhaps you want to start writing the story of someone near and dear to you. Either way, you’re not alone. Even businesses are learning how effective it can be to create a brand story.
Looking back on life to gain an understanding of the past is pretty much a universal experience dating back to tribespeople, medieval, and even biblical times. Storytelling has been a way to both understand one’s life and integrate the past with the present.
Stories have been passed down from one generation to the next as a way of preserving both history and heritage. The preservation of life stories helped survivors to know where they came from and understand the trials and tribulations of those who came before them. And we still do the same thing today!
Telling Your Story Is NOT Just for the Old and Infirmed
In the past, most people didn’t put much thought into the perspective of their life until they reached an old age or until they became terminally ill. Oral storytelling and last wishes were a common occurrence. But today, people are recording their life stories at much younger ages—as young as their twenties.
In fact, when those in their 60s to 80s look back on their lives, the greatest period of recall tends to fall between the ages of 15 and 30. These younger, formative years seem to be the times when we are influenced the most, when we take the most risks, when we start our careers at work, and when we learn the most. These early days of experimentation can often set the stage for our perspective on life and how we live the rest of our days.
In the distant past, oral storytelling was a tradition that was passed down to family members and each successive generation. Today, the art of storytelling may be diminishing as we are using more unconventional and/or modern techniques to tell our stories. Here are a few examples:
- Digital Storytelling
- Social Media
- And more!
Telling Your Story with Purpose
How you tell the story depends on your purpose or goal. Are you looking to be more self-aware, gain an understanding of your past, use the experience as therapy or educate and enrich your descendants? Are you pursuing an unanswered questions in your life? These are just a few reasons to create your life story.
Stories can be told chronologically or structured otherwise. There aren’t any rules. The simple act of storytelling can provide a better sense of self, your group or family, or the community as a whole. Even traumatic events can be approached with an emphasis on the personal growth experienced because of the occurrence.
Here are a few reasons that people report for telling their life story.
- Personal growth
- Historical preservation
- Psychological development
- Philosophical truth
- Spiritual growth
- Impart knowledge and wisdom
- Share ideas and thoughts with children
- Pass on values
- Gain personal identity
- Improve self-worth and well-being
- Individual empowerment
- And more!
The Power of Telling Your Story
Telling your story can be one of the most powerful things you do during your lifetime. You may choose to start early and begin writing your story as you go or wait until later in life to record your story with the perspective of decades of experience behind you. There’s no right or wrong way to tell your story. It will help if you develop a compelling narrative. It’s all up to you!
Telling one’s life story has been beneficial to many people from all walks of life and in all phases of life. And there is no rule on when you should start. Here are some examples of people who have gained personal growth from telling their life story.
- Those suffering from a terminal illness
- Those in assisted living
- Those who have experienced a significant loss
- Those experiencing memory loss, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease
- Those enduring depression or anxiety
- And more!
The Power of Telling Someone Else’s Story
If you’re interviewing someone to capture their life story, then you may find yourself in a treasured place. Because the power of storytelling lies with the reviewer—not the interviewer. People may go to therapy to feel better about life and themselves. And historians are concerned with recording and confirming facts. But you, as the interviewer, are concerned with none of these things.
The goal is purely to record the person’s perspective about their past. You can let go of any need to corroborate facts or seek out evidence. Recording someone’s life story is truly about capturing their human perspective—a perspective which may be flawed, and memories that may have been altered in their mind over time. That’s Okay!
Your job as the storyteller is to simply share their story, with the audience, the way they want it told—plain and simple. It’s truly the easiest job!
What to Talk about When Telling Your Story
Where to start? It doesn’t matter where you start. Remember, there are no rules. Perhaps start with your earliest memory. Or start on a day that changed you. You can start with an important period of your life, when you met someone or when an event happened. The possibilities are endless.
Beyond where to start, some people struggle with what to talk about. So, we’ve created this short list of topics often touched upon when telling a life story. This is just a list to get you started.
- Traumatic events
- Goals and aspirations
- Life experiences and themes
- Turning points
- Your military service
- Death and dying
- And much more!
The Journey of Telling Your Story
Whether you are looking back on your life to gain some personal perspective or to simply provide an oral history—or assisting someone else in doing the same—you may find that you gain some unexpected benefits from the experience of telling your story. The more you share your narrative, the greater your storytelling skill will improve. Quite often, many people approach the storytelling process with a goal in mind but gain so much more from the journey. What you gain from your individual voyage is as personal as your own story. The most important thing is to start, and to schedule periodic time to continue telling your story. At a minimum, consider these 4 things to talk about before you die...even if you don't want to. Enjoy your travels!