Write your success story to build courage

Over 20 years ago, when I was exploring what my purpose might be, I discovered the Life Work Center in San Francisco. (Unfortunately, it no longer exists.) The mission of this non-profit was to help those of us feeling lost, scared or confused find clarity toward our purpose.

One of my biggest A-HA! moments came from this exercise—writing a success story. And this has helped many of my clients open to a new awareness about themselves and their skills.

Choose a success that happened in childhood anywhere between the ages of 9-20 years old. The story should not involve work and must be outside of a work setting. Write the story out, and be sure it includes the following:

  • A goal or intention
  • An obstacle(s)
  • How you overcame that obstacle to achieve success

NOTE: There’s one more part to this exercise.

For reference, here was my own story and the A-HA! Moment I had afterward:

The time of year was Halloween and I decided I wanted to create a haunted house. I have 4 sisters and so I enrolled 2 of them to help me. Our first challenge was creating walls in our garage so that the participant would feel as if they were walking through a maze. Our solution was to use big black garbage bags and hang them from the ceiling. Our second obstacle was creating blood and guts. This was tough for us—we thought to use ketchup, but decided it wasn’t quite chunky enough. As a solution, we decided to use whole tomatoes from our neighbor’s garden. We went down the street and picked about eight tomatoes. We mashed them up and spread them across the ‘operation table’. After the haunted house was all set up, we still didn’t have anyone to come to it. I took charge here and tasked my sisters with making flyers and handing them out to the houses up and down our street. People came, we charged, and in the end we each made a few dollars.

When I read this story to a couple of women I know they said that what they heard was that I was entrepreneurial. When I heard this, my first thought was “What?!?” I had never used that word to describe myself before. The “A-HA” came as I let it really sink in. I thought about my past and my work life up until then: I was in sales for over 10 years and although I worked for a company, I treated my territory like it was my own operation—I ran it independently and over the course of a decade I never stopped taking on the responsibility for its success.

When the clarity came that I wanted to coach women toward their purpose, it all made sense. I do have an entrepreneurial spirit and this exercise helped me see a strength I was unable to see for myself.

After you write the story I want you to read it to a partner and/or friend. Ask them to tell you what they hear about your strengths and skills—what about your character and/or your gifts comes through the narrative?

It is vitally important that you share your story here and get feedback from someone you trust: sharing your story is the key to getting an A-HA moment out of this exercise! Others come with fresh eyes, an open mind, and a non-judgemental heart—from this place they are able to see qualities we cannot see ourselves.

If you can’t think of someone to share your story with, please send it to me. I am happy to share the strengths I see coming through your narrative. If you do have someone to read it to, still send it to me along with your A-HA moment. Whether or not you want feedback, I always LOVE reading these!