Imagine authoring your own life story. Sounds powerful, right? That’s because understanding and consciously shaping our narratives is a significant step towards self-awareness and personal growth. Self-reflection allows us to delve deeper into our own stories, uncovering insights that can guide us to lead more fulfilling lives. The impact of this process can be felt across all facets of our life by equipping us with the ability to navigate challenges, seize opportunities, and steer our careers in alignment with our authentic selves.
Over the last week, I have had several conversations with friends and peers on authoring the next phase(s) of their life. But how do we unlock our inner author?
Brad McLain, a recent guest on the HAPPINESS SQUAD podcast, provides insights and tips as we explore this space. Brad is a transformative change agent whose personal experiences and intimate stories of narrative reformation inspired countless individuals. Brad has nurtured a deep understanding of transformation within ourselves and his courage to face his vulnerabilities allowed him to reframe his entire life narrative, leading him to attain wholehearted happiness.
Let’s discuss this through a few key steps:
- Recognize & Understand Your Personal Narratives
- Intentionally Create Transformative Experiences
- Build Collaborations for Impact
“Transformative experiences do not happen to us, they are created by us…whether we realize it or not.” Brad McLain
Recognize & Understand Your Personal Narratives
Narratives significantly impact our identities and how we perceive the world around us. Our personal narratives encapsulate our experiences, beliefs, perceptions, and aspirations, thus shaping our overall outlook on life. These narratives aren’t merely recollections of events but are interwoven with our emotions and interpretations. The beauty of personal narratives is that they are not etched in stone. We constantly mould them and change them, and in doing so, shift our identities.
Brad highlights that the ability to recognize and understand these narratives is indeed a transformative experience. For him, it’s the art of crafting and shaping experiences that yield potential for growth. Brad emphasizes the importance of viewing one’s personal narratives not as a static storyline, but as a dynamic and evolving script that can be edited and revised as we grow and change.
A few approaches to develop this ability include celebrating successes and progress as a means to reinforce and motivate yourself forward, challenging negative beliefs by reviewing evidence that support these beliefs (or assessments) and applying counterexamples of instances where you have shown growth.
Recognizing and understanding personal narratives through self-reflection unearths a wealth of self-knowledge that fuels personal development and fosters a happier, more fulfilling life. It allows us to critically examine our narratives and nudges us to delve deeper into our psyche, uncovering insights about our motivations, fears, and values that guide our actions. We become empowered to author our experiences and shape our lives intentionally rather than inviting unhelpful narratives that hold us back. As a bonus, we become more attuned not only to our narratives, but also to those of others around us, fostering deeper and more meaningful relationships.
Intentionally Create Transformative Experiences
The beautiful thing about transformative experiences is that they’re often borne out of a potent blend of intention, self-reflection, and a commitment to personal growth. The experience itself could be either expected or unexpected – an illness, career disruption or life-changing circumstances. They aren’t always comfortable or straightforward, and might demand a radical shift in perspective. However, they possess an unparalleled power to shape and instigate compelling narratives of change. When we consciously take on the mantle of crafting or reframing these transformative experiences, we’re also declaring our intent to author and control our own narratives, extending beyond the limits of external influences and expectations.
Brad’s transformative experiences have played an immense role in his life and work. They demonstrate the deep interplay between our identities, narratives, and the perspective we create and inhabit. For example, his battle with cancer served as a source of inspiration and a shining testimony to the lasting, significant impacts of such experiences. As he recounts, they may be pathways that come from tragedies and dark places. We may not choose the curveballs, however, we can choose how we respond or “RSVP.” By seeking support and connection with family and friends, implementing change gradually, staying curious and open-minded and embracing the change or uncertainty, we learn to adapt to different situations, explore new possibilities and author a clearer way forward.
The takeaway of intentionally creating and embracing transformative experiences carries such significance due to its deep-rooted implications. It’s about acknowledging that we have the power to affect change within ourselves and our lives. It recognizes our roles as the authors of our own narratives rather than passive bystanders. Through this approach, we can tap into a vast reservoir of personal power and potential, awakening a level of self-awareness and growth that would otherwise lay dormant. This isn’t just a tool for personal development—it’s a transformative lens through which we view and experience our journey through life.
Build Collaborations for Impact
Unleashing our inner author involves curating personal narratives that shape our identity and manner of engagement with the world. However, this task bears greater fruit when it journeys to influence wider societal challenges. Here lies the power of collaborative effort, where individual narratives unite in a shared vision. Strengthening collaborations with like-minded individuals lets us mesh our transformative experiences and self-authored narratives, creating a collective force capable of tackling the broader challenges that face our society today.
Delving into the conversation with Brad McLain, his insights shed light on the value of collaborations in amplifying the impact of our transformative experiences. Just as Brad has done by aligning with Ashish and I in programs such as Nested, Roots and Shoots. The program, which aims to craft new identities for children and engage them in tackling climate change, is an exemplary case of how personal narratives and collaborative efforts can merge to address societal issues. Brad’s experiences highlight the potency of collaborations in directing our personal growth beyond ourselves while serving a larger societal purpose.
To further illustrate this, the HAPPINESS SQUAD, in its mission to launch a happiness revolution, led its first session with a London Business School alumni cohort. As we explored topics ‘top of mind,’ we discussed in detail and leveraged the collective insights to support each other. The power of an interactive group to deepen and share understandings was a key unlock for each of us rather than exploring solutions in isolation.
Understanding why this key takeaway is significant lies in grasping the synergistic power of collective narratives. When we unite our individual transformative experiences through collaborative environments, we create a potent force that can instigate significant societal change. Personal growth then goes beyond individual benefit—it becomes a tool for universal upliftment. Collaborations integrate our personal self-authored narratives, making the resultant story more than the sum of its parts. This interweaving of narratives underlines the importance of collaborative action, not merely in addressing personal and community growth but also in constructing robust responses to wider societal issues.
The journey towards personal growth and self-awareness is a transformative one – and understanding and harnessing the power of self-reflection is a key part of this journey. The insights shared by Brad McLain provide a roadmap for unleashing your inner author and embarking on this path of self-discovery. Recognizing and understanding your personal narratives is the first step by becoming aware of your life story and how it shapes your identity. The next step is to intentionally create transformative experiences to reframe perspective to embrace your life and not just be a passive observer. The power of collaboration can be harnessed to tackle challenges and contribute to the bigger picture.
I invite you to take these insights to heart, reflect on them, and let them guide you as you find your voice, shape your narrative, and unleash you to author your best life.
Dr. Brad McLain is the founder of Designing Transformative Experiences LLC. With over 20 years of experience. Brad is a renowned social scientist specializing in identity development, learning, and leadership. He works closely with companies like Apple, Google, and Morgan Stanley, advising them on inclusive culture construction and change leadership. As a faculty member at the University of Colorado and is involved with the National Center for Women in Information Technology. Brad has also served on the Board of Directors for the Jane Goodall Institute. He recently launched his book “Designing Transformative Experiences and highly recommend you check it out! Connect with him via LinkedIn or visit him at Designing Transformative Experiences.
Listen to the full podcast with Brad below.
Access and subscribe to the all of the episodes of the Happiness Squad Podcast here.
Visit the REWIRE Program powered up by the HAPPINESS SQUAD Community and experience your shift within your 30 day risk-free trial today. Cultivate your Self-Awareness, Gratitude, Purpose and Community and personal growth more through the 9 Hardwired for Happiness practices. Integrate simple and proven micro-practices grounded in the science of happiness and neuroscience of habit formation in a 5 minutes a day.
Make Happiness Your Competitive Edge.