The world is made up of stories, not atoms.
—Muriel Rukeyser

We all love stories; we are born to them. They affirm who we are, that our lives have meaning. Stories cross the barriers of time, as well as connect us with others.

Our brains are wired to process information in narrative form. We think in stories and tell stories throughout the day. We frame our stories of relationships in terms of supporting characters—spouse, children, college, friend.

Despite being natural storytellers, one of the greatest challenges is to tell our stories to ourselves, in order to know what to change. To reflect on and develop mindfulnessness about our own experience. To figure out who’s really writing the script. To understand why we have chosen certain roles. To reflect on the challenges we face. To figure out how we can turn circumstances into possibilities, challenges into strengths. To plan the next chapters. To see if there is an Unlived Life.

All well-drawn characters have a spine; an inner, dominant, unconscious quest—an itch they can’t scratch. Michael Corleone in The Godfather was to please his father. Examples of others—not all of which lead someone to make good choices—include to find the beauty, to prevent harm, to do what is best for our child.

People go to therapy when they are stuck in an old story and can’t figure out how to extract themselves, or how to write a new one. People to come to Mentor Coaches when they want to convert problems to possibilities, to create successful new money, wellness, career, relationship, or other stories.

The greatest story commandment: Make me care. Emotionally, aesthetically, intellectually. We scroll across scores of television and movie channels to suddenly stop on one. Something about it is compelling. We care. Mr. Rogers always carried in his wallet a statement that said, “Frankly, there isn’t anyone you couldn’t learn to love once you’ve heard their story.”

By recognizing, owning, and observing our stories, we can assess each component, decide what to change, and map changes. We can then author new storylines and even program the changes to transform our identities according to that new story.

All good stories give a promise in the beginning. A promise that it will be worth our time. We invite the listener to join the campfire of the story. The implicit promise is that it will be worth our time. Once upon a time…