Monday, January 2, 2012

Living a Good Story

New year's resolutions. Love 'em or hate 'em, this is the time of year when we pause to reflect on the past and think about what the next year holds. I read this post on Donald Miller's blog two years ago, and it completely changed the way I approach making goals for the new year:
I don’t have any problem with goals. I like goals and still set them. But without an overarching plot, goals don’t make sense and are hard to achieve. A story gives a goal a narrative context that forces you to engage and follow through. People who are in great shape and have their finances in order probably don’t set goals to be in good shape or get their finances in order. They probably set goals of running a marathon or paying off their house. In other words, they think in narrative rather than goals. The goals get met in the journey of the story.
Miller says that a story involves a person who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it. One of my personal life values is live a great story:
Live my story as part of God’s Story. Develop my character. Choose difficult paths intentionally; take the harder-but-better path. Seek obstacles to overcome. Reject any activity or practice that won’t lead to a better story. Look at each season as a chapter in a greater story God is telling in and through me.
What if you began this year not trying to make goals that ultimately fall apart by February? What if you resolved to live a great story in 2012? You'd need a few key components:

You have to want something. This isn't about being selfish or conceited. This is about having passion, purpose, direction, and clarity about what is truly important. If you don't want anything--or if what you want is superficial or temporary--then you won't have a good story. Wanting a new iPod isn't a good story. Wanting a lifelong Godly marriage is much better. Figure out what you really want; more importantly, figure out what God really wants for you. It turns out that when we want what God wants, our stories take on a far richer and more eternal significance.

You need a conflict. It's not enough to just want something. We need motivation to get us moving. Miller calls this an inciting incident. Characters don't want to change, so an incident--a tornado approaches, a family member dies, aliens invade, etc.--must force them to react in order to solve the conflict. It requires action, movement, and is motivated by that initial desire, i.e. what you want. If you want a great marriage, that will require some sacrifices and conflicts in order to make that dream a reality. What are the hard paths in front of you? What are the difficult decisions that need to be made? Have courage and go after them.

You need time. The best stories are epics. Look at some of the greatest novels that have ever been written: Anna Karenina, Crime and Punishment, A Farewell to Arms, The Lord of the Rings, etc. They are ridiculously long. Think about movies: Gone With the Wind, The Godfather, Lawrence of Arabia, Schindler's List, etc. None of these could ever have been told under 90 minutes. Stories require significant quality time to be truly great tales. Characters need a significant span to grow and mature and change. You don't become the hero of the story in a 30-second montage. Be patient, give yourself time, and make goals that will require discipline and endurance in order to achieve them.

What story will your life tell in 2012?

1 comment:

  1. Loved reading this Joel. I'm inspired to live a great story.