Become The Author of Your Story - Greg Orme

Become The Author of Your Story

After the unexpected ups and downs of the last two years, who knows what 2022 will hold? 

A recent global study contains a powerful insight that can help, whatever the world throws at us. Researchers at the polling company Ipsos asked people in 27 countries why they continued to feel cheerful. 48% of them reported, despite the disruption to their lives from Covid-19, they’ve remained happy because they believe their life has meaning. As the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote: “If you know the why, you can live any how”.  

We often assume a deeper meaning in work, is the preserve of those in public service. However, we can all reframe our jobs to discover a hidden purpose. Fortunately, there is a powerful, creative technique to unearth meaning beyond checking each month that we’ve been paid. It unleashes the kind of energy and resilience we’re seeing in the unassuming health workers who’ve played a starring role in the pandemic. 

The approach is to tell yourself a more inspiring, imaginative story, about why you work. Using the language of psychology, this is about choosing your level of construal (a fancy term for perceiving meaning in life’s daily rituals). Without reflection, the problem is our choices are often made unconsciously. The result: we default to uninspiring, knee-jerk answers such as: “I work only to make a living”. 

It’s not just in the career department where hidden choices are the difference between heaven and hell. For example, dieting can be seen as merely denying yourself delicious food. Or you can choose to recognize it as making a better, fitter life to offer more love to your family and friends. The story you tell about an elevated heart rate while jogging can be about breathless pain. Or you can view it as a welcome signal you’re strengthening your cardiovascular system to live with more zest and energy.

There is a strong connection between crafting a more powerful story, and the ability to become a more authentic leader. Shaping a more meaningful narrative acts as a transformational lever for your personal growth and self-development. It also helps colleagues to trust your intentions.  

Inspiring yourself and others implies connecting to something larger. To reframe your work to help other people. Not everyone is saving lives like the nurses on the front line of the pandemic. But everybody is serving someone, in some way. Managers can see themselves as the “positive life force” which animates their team. HR Directors can frame their job as “career ninjas”. Accountants can take pride in being “Mission Control” for the frontline “astronauts”.   

At the most fundamental biological level, it’s worth reflecting your brain is never directly exposed to sunlight. Light receptors within your eyes transmit messages to the brain which then create the world you “see”. We’re all constantly interpreting a made-up world of our own design. Having a work purpose isn’t magic. It’s something you write down and then try to live each day. You are the author of your own life. You may as well tell a story that inspires you.

 This blog originally appeared in my regular Forbes column.  

Please feel free to share with your connections. 

To explore my work further, check out my latest book The Human Edge: How curiosity and creativity are your superpowers in the digital economy (Pearson) which won the Business Book of The Year 2020.

All right reserved Copyright © 2022 Greg Orme

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