We hear so much in the news today about people doing DNA tests to trace their ancestry. But people often forget that access to their heritage is as close as grandma and grandpa! Telling stories about ourselves and our family is how we connect to our past and those who came before.
As people grow (and particularly once they have children of their own) its only natural that they begin to wonder more about where they and their family came from. So even if right now you think no one would be interested in your life story, you may find that in a few years (or perhaps a few decades) your children and grandchildren will thank you for the time you took to record your experiences and give them insight into your life.
Here are some suggestions for how to get started:
These days you aren’t restricted to just pen and paper, or even to a computer when you’re chronicling your life story. The LifeTales app has great options for recording and sharing photos, audio, and video so you can recount your story as easily as if you were talking to a friend or loved one.
Childhood is a natural place to start your reminiscences, but don’t get hung up on chronology. Focus on writing or recording any good story, or any memories that stand out. Then tell another. And another. You can order and organized them later.
While they might seem mundane to you, it’s the little details—the little differences from life today–about where and how you grew up that will be of interest. Did you grow up overseas? On a farm? How was your city different decades ago when you were growing up? These details will stand out to your children and grandchildren precisely because they’re so different from their experiences today. That’s interesting!
You may think your family has heard a story a million times already, but that doesn’t mean its not worth including. They may have heard the story from someone else’s perspective. You might have a unique perspective or specific details on the events. Maybe you tell the story better than anyone else! Don’t risk leaving something out that future generations may find interesting or entertaining just because your family now has heard the tale before.
Your family wants to know about your actual life, so resist any temptation to embellish (for better or worse!) You family wants to learn more about you, and maybe even look for lessons they can apply to their own lives, so hearing about what actually happened (and not a tall tale) is what will help them most.
But while honesty is best, remember: you’re also not writing a tell-all. Everyone has things in their past that are difficult to talk about or relive. Maybe there is a difficult childhood, family trauma, or personal tragedy. There may be things that are simply too painful, or which you prefer to keep private. That’s okay. You’re the author of your own story, so what you include (or don’t) is entirely your choice. Your story can still be rich and interesting without these moments.
In February 2016, Brooke Monks had the life she thought she wanted.
She was working full time as an elementary school teacher. At home, she balanced a busy home life with her husband, two children and a wide circle of family and friends.
Then, her grandfather died.
“Looking back, everything started to change with his passing,” Monks says. “My grandfather had several strokes before his death. It became serious very fast. And, my family is tight knit. His illness and then death hit us all hard. I was particularly concerned about my grandmother and my brother, who was very close to our grandfather. Knowing they needed me and being an hour away was incredibly hard.”
Monks had a tough time finding flexibility in her teaching role. “Teaching is a very structured job. It has to be for the students. But I was riddled with guilt that I wasn’t doing enough for everyone I loved. And I just couldn’t take time off.”
Her frustration was not a complete surprise. “I knew teaching a full class demanded too much from me. I’d switched from teaching Grade 4 to doing prep coverage, which is when you give other teachers time to do their classwork preparation. I taught their French classes. I thought it would give me less homework and grading to do, freeing up my evenings and weekends.” She laughs ruefully. “My plan completely backfired. I ended up with more to do.”
At home, Monks’ two-year old daughter had also developed a severe case of eczema, which caused her tremendous pain. “Dealing with my daughter’s illness, my family’s grief and my job was overwhelming. It got to the point where I couldn’t recall any French vocabulary. Stress was impairing my cognitive function. I went on medical leave.”
While the break was what she needed, leaving teaching was a challenge for Monks. “I’d been a teacher for 12 years. I was so invested. I pushed myself to go back. But I was seeing a psychologist who just kept telling me I wasn’t ready. Then a friend of mine introduced me to lifestyle coaching.”
Stylish and outrageously positive with a mega-watt smile, Monks is exactly the person you’d like to have as a coach. Instead of driving to school each morning, she now works from home which gives her the flexibility to honor family commitments.
“Leaping into entrepreneurship was the right decision for me,” says Monks. “I feel like 40 is the perfect time to make a life change. My kids are still relatively young and my parents are healthy. Having flexibility in my life means I can shift gears when they need me.”
And, LifeTales has also changed the way she’s experiencing her children’s lives. “I’m around when they need me,” she says. “That’s the biggest difference. I’ve started using the LifeTales app to make sure I’m capturing all the special, cool little things they do and say. My daughter calls it her mini Instagram. My son calls it his YouTube. I love that they’ve got a private place to express themselves without scrutiny.”
Monks credits LifeTales as part of her effort to be more mindful in everything she does. “I’ve got this great prompt to stop and capture the ordinary and the extraordinary moments. They’re safely stored in the cloud. Knowing I’ve got our family memories so nicely organized makes me super happy.”
Have you heard about growth mindset parenting?
It’s based on a popular psychology theory in in education. Articles on growth mindset also get a lot of buzz in magazines and blogs for the entrepreneurial and self-improvement communities. Even pro athletes like the NBA’s Steph Curry have even talked about taking a growth approach to their careers.
Why should parents care? Because exploring a growth mindset may give you new tools as you take on the responsibilities that come with having kids.
Think back: one minute you were living your adult life, working on your career goals, deciding if you should join a recreational soccer league, or debating whether to try that new takeout place down the block.
Yet the minute you learned there was a baby coming, your priorities shifted. Before you know it, that tiny, vulnerable human being is in your arms. And during your child’s early years, it’s your choices that have the biggest impact on how they learn and grow.
New parents can read all the baby books in the world to get ready (and some parents do). But nothing prepares you for that humbling moment when you look into your child’s delicate face and grasp your new roles. There’s no going back—and no manual.
It can feel pretty overwhelming.
Don’t worry. All the research suggests that parents are made, not born.
According to Wikipedia, a mindset is, “a set of assumptions, methods, or notations held by one or more people or groups of people.” In other words, it’s all the ideas we’ve picked up from family, friends and our experiences about how we’re supposed to think and act.
Growth mindset theory is credited to Dr. Carol S. Dweck, an American professor of Psychology at Stanford University. Over the course of her accomplished career, Dweck and her fellow scientists developed a theory of two distinct mindsets. They found that people basically fall into two groups with very different approaches to life, including what they think about failure.
From Wikipedia: “Those with a ‘fixed mindset’ believe that abilities are mostly innate and interpret failure as the lack of necessary basic abilities, while those with a ‘growth mindset’ believe that they can acquire any given ability provided they invest effort or study.
So, here’s a quick graphic overview:
Dweck’s research showed that people who believe in growth are more likely to continue working hard despite setbacks. Through determination, learning, training and persistence, they improve because they believe that it’s possible for them to change.
If you think about qualities like intelligence as being fixed, like the number of jelly beans in a jar, then you have whatever you’re born with and no more. Your ability to learn and change is set, along with your ability to solve problems or rise to situations. Which means if you fail, the failure results from your abilities.
Kind of bleak, huh? No wonder people with a fixed mindset avoid situations where failure’s on the line at all costs.
On the other hand, if you think of intelligence as something more like a muscle you can build with practice and repetition, life becomes less all-or-nothing. You’ll spend less time obsessing over mistakes and what they mean if you believe it’s possible to learn from them and improve.
To Dweck, openness to this fundamental belief in your own ability to get better means you could “live a less stressful and more successful life.”
Food for thought, huh?
Parenting is hard. Co-parenting with another person can be even harder. You and your partner may have very different ideas about how to raise another human being, and there’s no way to know until the baby arrives.
You may not feel like you have an immediate talent for parenting if:
If you didn’t grow up in a family where other adults showed you how to cope with these challenges, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Even people who come from big families may feel they have no idea what they’re doing. Comparing yourself to friends or skimming the feeds of parenting influencers intensify those feelings.
Everyone’s life looks shiny on the outside.
But as Joe Hirsch writes in his INC Magazine profile on Curry, “Success comes as a result of effort, learning, and persistence–not just inborn talent, intelligence or strength.”
The good news? You don’t have to be a rockstar right out of the gate. Parenting is nothing if not an opportunity for persistent learning.
So, adopting a growth mindset may help you think about parenting as a multifaceted skill at which you—and your partner—will get better.
You don’t have to be experts or achieve someone else’s level of perfection. You just have to commit and be open to achieving what works for you and your kids.
The Huffington Post’s Parenting blog has some great ideas for getting started, including monitoring your self-talk and being conscious of the messages you’re sending about learning and growth to your kids.
Based on our experiences, the LifeTales team is how our app can act as a feedback mechanism for you.
The Personal Collection gives you a completely private space to jot down your thoughts about how you parent. And if you’ve noticed tendencies that you’d like to change, it’s also a perfect place to note your habits without judgement.
In the spirit of Professor Dweck, you can gather data about your choices and impartially assess where they’re leading you. Ask yourself:
Over time, you may see you’re doing a better job than you thought. And someday, when your kids are grown, you’ll be able to reflect on your experience and share your wisdom.
Does adopting a growth mindset to parenting appeal to you? What are the skills you struggle with?
Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to feature your growth experience or hear from you about other topics we should explore.