“To change the landscape of your life is to begin with the process of imagination and vision.”
We all know that storytelling is an ancient practice; yet so many of us do not recognize the value of our own stories nor do we understand the importance of using our imagination to consciously create new ones. There is far more to story than what happened yesterday. It is the adventure of a lifetime to explore the deeper stories of who you are, why you are here, how you choose to authentically show up in the world and what that means for your present and your future.
However, we learn very early not to talk about ourselves too much. We sometimes fear that our messages won’t be understood or that we won’t get a good grade for what we have to share. Perhaps the concern is that we will appear arrogant or seem to be seeking pity we would not welcome.
I first "discovered" the power of my own story when I returned to the United States to attend Howard University in 1971. On the freshman boat ride, I was in a group of students where one person was passing out "funny little cigarettes" wrapped in paper that looked like the American flag. I had never seen anything like it and without a second thought blurted out: “What is it?” The guy looked at me incredulously and says, “Girrrrrl, where you from?”
And that was the beginning of understanding that my story was spicy and had a unique, exotic flavor — I always had to explain where I was from.
I quickly gathered that an African-American girl (born in Miami, Florida), who left with her parents and three siblings for East Africa at the age of 9 and then grew up on the “dark continent” provided the springboard for a host of questions. The answers to those questions became a story I learned to tell well and share often.
I learned to appreciate the transformative decision my father made to move his family to Jinja, Uganda in 1962 — pursuing his teenage and young adult dream to live and work on the African continent. His powerful story greatly impacted the path my own story would take.
I can and will fill a book with the meaning and significance of the broad experiences I had growing up there, and in the same way, you can fill a book sharing the powerful dynamics that make you who you are today. Each one of us has been molded and shaped by the stories we have lived, by the ones we have survived and by the ones that have caused us to learn, grow and blossom. As Isak Dinesen (author of Out of Africa) said: “To be a person is to have a story to tel.l” That means all of us … no matter our circumstances.
There is another aspect of storytelling that is potentially far more powerful than the ones from your past. It involves the definition of story that is not as common as the one that reflects days gone by.
I understand "story" as an individual and unique combination of our thoughts, words, beliefs, experiences and actions. You can also co-create the story you intend to see and manifest in your world. First, know that you have the choice and power to do so. My father’s imagination changed his family’s life. He laid the foundation for our story because he set and nurtured his intent until it became his reality. He lived the story he created.
To change the landscape of your life is to begin with the process of imagination and vision. It is to hold it; play with every aspect of what you wish to manifest; and, to let your purpose direct you. It is to believe in the dream and to picture it in your mind every single day, several times a day. It is to define, create and tell yourself the story you wish and in the future expect to see transpire. Then, turning your story into a movie, it is to feel the excitement and anticipation of the scenes that run across the screens sitting inside your head and your heart. Develop your plot, and bring in the players who are necessary to help you fulfill your script. Pray and confidently move your feet when required to do so, and, if you do face fear, do your best to push past it without allowing it to define you, and move forward despite it.
To discover the power of your story is to grow, evolve and create change. To discover the power of story is to make a difference and a contribution in our world.