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Studies show there is a group of people who live really good lives. They are happier, have more friends, are more successful, are good parents and community members. These people have varied circumstances. Some are rich, and others are poor. They don't share politics, race, or religion.
What they do have in common is that they're concerned about future generations and work to make the world a better place. What makes them stand out is the story they tell themselves about their lives.
Our stories shape the way we make sense of the world. It allows us to find answers to questions like: Who am I? What is right and wrong? What am I required to do?
Our stories allow us to edit en restructure the good and the bad that is bound to happen to everyone. The story in our heads guides how we will move forward.
You have a story, even if you're not aware of it. Dan McAdams, professor of psychology, mentions that we can view our stories in two ways that can impact our lives.
We can turn a contamination story into a redemption story by acknowledging the painful moments, then learning how to create a better life because of it.
Research shows those high in generativity felt special. They thought they had a gift or positive trait. Consider what you have to offer the world. What is your gift? What makes you special? Maybe you're a good friend or very persistent.
Most generative people feel they have a gift, but they're also empathetic. They notice that others suffer and use their gift to help them.
Whose suffering has moved you, and how has your gift enabled you to help them? It could be something like, " I'm clever and helped my friends with their homework."
People with high generativity don't question and debate the meaning of life every morning. They have clear values that they live by.
You must make a decision before you can make a difference. What do you stand for? What offends you morally? For example, do you stand up to bullies? Do you feel it is wrong to leave someone with hurt feelings?
Redemption means not letting those terrible moments contaminate you but finding benefit in the negative and using it as something to grow from.
What was a big setback in your life? What value or positive lesson can you take from it? How did it change you for the better?
Agency and communion are fundamental motives. It is how to get ahead while getting along. You can't help others if you don't believe in your ability to make a difference.
Are you too focused on getting ahead or getting along? Do you need more agency or more community?
If you have no goal to work toward, no dreams, you may get stuck in a contamination doom loop, where you say, "I haven't... and probably never will."
But the story isn't over. Ask yourself what are your future goals? What do you want to accomplish? How do you want to grow as a person and make a difference in the lives of others? Then act on it.
The Redemptive story resonates with all of us. It's the core of classic movies, great biographies and Sunday sermons. Even People Magazine uses this structure in about 52% of their stories. The story of 'bad things happen to me, but good outcomes often follow' propels us forward as individuals and as a society.
You have your own version of this story. Tweak it and keep on rewriting it. The way you structure it determines its impact on who you are and what your future will look like.
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