The Stories We Tell…
Life can only be understood backwards;
but it must be lived forwards.
During my seminars, participants often ask, how I became a trainer. I started working with groups when I was 15, meeting 9-10 year old youngsters in our local community to arrange some free-time activities. And when I think back, in all periods of my life, from my school time until now, I found myself working with various groups – as a youth leader, workcamp coordinator, team leader, facilitator, moderator, trainer, etc. My studies in Psychology as well as several training courses and long-term trainings equipped me with the necessary approaches and tools. And various organisations and trainer pools gave me the opportunities to put things into practice, experiment and develop professionally.
This is one story about how I became a trainer, a more or less straight line how I got to the point, where I am now. But this is only one story. A story looking backwards, “connecting the dots” as Steve Jobs would put it. The result of understanding your own story backwards is often a story that is straightforward – as if all moments in life lead exactly to the point now.
However, there is another story, I how I made it to the point in my life where I am now.
This narration is not a straightforward story. It is full of waiting times, detours, ups and downs, falling down and getting up again. For example, for a very long time I did not know at all what I wanted to do or who I wanted to become in life. A choice I postponed and I hated questions about what I would do after school… Psychology was ideal in that moment, because it left all doors open: the world of corporations, therapy, as well as education. And when it came to the moment ofchoosing specialization, I chose all three areas (which made my studies longer and longer). And when I finally was ready to enter the job market, I took a gap year to find out in which direction I would like to go… Later, other moments are connected to becoming a free-lance trainer, which brought other disruptions and changes.
If I look on my path in this way, I create a different story, the one I lived forward. One that is not straightforward, but has detours, curves, disruptions and interruptions, steps that took me fast forward and other steps that took me backwards.
Both stories are true. Which one should I tell?
When participants asked me about my story, I assumed they wanted to know how to become a trainer. Which educational path to choose, which specific steps to take to get there. Today, I am more convinced, that they look for stories, different examples of how people find and create their path through life. And they do not look for straightforward stories, but for those that are closer to life.
We all heard plenty of those narrations that have a straight forward plot, from our family and friends. And also Social Media provide us day-by-day with this kind of stories. In a world that is getting more and more complex and the future is becoming more and more unpredictable, we need stories that show us how to navigate through this world and find our place in life – personally and professionally.
Life is not straightforward. We understand it that way backwards,
but – as Kierkegaard puts it – we have to live it forward.
Which story are you telling?