How to Narrate Your Life Story

How to Narrate Your Life Story


At moments of sorrow and exhaustion, it is
only too easy to look back over the years and feel that our lives have, in essence,
been meaningless. We take stock of just how much has gone wrong: how many errors there
have been; how many unfulfilled plans and frustrated dreams we’ve had. We may feel
like the distraught, damned Macbeth who, on learning of his wife’s death, exclaims at
a pitch of agony that man is a cursed creature who: …struts and frets his hour upon the
stage, And then is heard no more. [Life] is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and
fury, Signifying nothing. No life can avoid an intermittently high degree of ‘sound
and fury.’ The question is whether it must also, ultimately, signify nothing. As Macbeth’s
lines hint, this will depend on who is telling it. In the hands of Shakespeare’s (bracingly
termed) ‘idiot’, the story of a life may well turn into unintelligible and dispiriting
gibberish. But with sufficient compassion and insight, we may equally be able to make
something different and a great deal more meaningful and redemptive out of the same
material. The difference between despair and hope is just
a different way of telling stories from the same set of facts. Only a small number of
us ever self-consciously write our autobiographies. It is a task we associate with celebrities
and the very old – but it is, in the background, a universal activity. We may not be publishing
our stories, but we are writing them in our minds nevertheless. Every day finds us weaving
a story about who we are, where we are going and why events happened as they did. Many
of us are strikingly harsh narrators of these life stories. We hint to ourselves that we’ve
been morons from the beginning. We’ve stuffed up big time. It’s been one disaster after
another. That’s how we go about narrating, especially late at night, when our reserves
of optimism run dry and the demons return. Yet there is nothing necessary about our self-flagellating
methods of narration. There could always be ways of telling very different, far kinder,
and more balanced stories from the very same sets of facts. You could give your life story
to Dostoevsky, Proust or Jesus and come out with a rather bearable, moving, tender and
noble story. Good – by which is meant fair-minded and judicious – narrators know that lives
can be meaningful even when they involve a lot of failure and humiliation. Mistakes do
not have to be absurd; they can be signs of how little information we have on which to
base the most consequential decisions. Messing up isn’t a sign of evil; it’s evidence
of what we’re up against. Not all the disasters were wasted anyway. Maybe we spent a decade
not quite knowing what we wanted to do with ourselves professionally. Maybe we went through
a succession of failed relationships that left us confused and hurt a lot of people.
But these experiences weren’t meaningless because they were necessary to later development
and maturity. We needed the career crisis to understand our working identities; we had
to fail at love to fathom our hearts. No one gets anywhere important in one go. We can
forgive ourselves the horrors of our first drafts. The good storyteller recognises – contrary
to certain impressions – that the central character of the story isn’t always responsible
for every calamity or triumph. We are never the sole authors of anything that happens
to us. Sometimes, it really will be the economy, our parents, the government, our enemies or
simply the tragic dimensions of human existence. Good narrators don’t over-personalise. Every
day, we are induced to narrate a bit our life story to ourselves: we explain why there was
pain, why we forgot to seize a chance and why we’re in an unhappy situation. It does
not need to be a tale told by an idiot signifying nothing. It can be a tale told by a kind,
intelligent soul signifying rather a lot: like almost every life story, it is in truth
a tale of a well-intentioned, flawed, partially blind, self-deceived but ultimately dignified
and good human struggling against enormous odds and, sometimes, on a good day, succeeding
just a little in a few areas. At The School of Life we believe in developing emotional intelligence. To that end we have also created a whole range of products to support that growth. Find out more at the link on your screen now.

100 thoughts on “How to Narrate Your Life Story”

  1. Should I go for my dreams and passions if I have rare abilities and ideas. I can put my all in whatever it is I do. I believe my life from birth to the present has provided a celeb like plot. But, leaving everything behind. Afraid of success. I don't know
    Any thoughts.

  2. Every lone is quite good, except – we are not always responsible for outcome, or our own fate, we may be unlucky , the victim of other factors eg money, parent, other people, society

  3. I love The School of Life; they do an amazing job of helping you put things into a perspective you otherwise wouldn't have seen unless pointed out to you. Sometimes you just need to hear someone say out loud the things your subconscious is trying to tell you. I think a lot of people in my generation(Millenials) would benefit from this and other videos on this channel.

  4. Thank you. Great stuff to be reminded of on my birthday. Life could've been better, but could've been worse. I think of my past and what could've been worse. I think of my future and what could be better.

  5. Realizing that life has no meaning and that there's no mission is one of the most liberating things you can feel. This world is probably not even real but it's filled with crazy variety and beautiful things to feel and do. Just go and do them, don't be concerned with the mission. Go and laugh and cry and feel it all. You will die very soon and that will be the end of it. There's most likely nothing when you die, so you will also get eternal rest, which is great.

  6. i like to listen to The School of Life’s videos while at work. This one made me cry almost uncontrollably. i needed to hear this to keep me going. Thanks TSoL 🙂

  7. that's me !…flawed as MacBeth .whether the mighty fall in life or insignificant me it's the  same shit !. For who now stands above the great plains , the man or the King ; whose bones lie buried in that ancient Earth ; the Kings ….or the man's ?. There's the rub . There's a book to written in each and everyone of us and a tale to tell .

  8. Very generic. Just a small level higher than the bombardment of 'wisdom' quoting on social media.
    And people love to feel 'understood 'motivated' for a few minutes..just to return to their rusty conceptions and paradigms, selfies and narcissism. 'We'..? not everyone fits in the 'we'. And they hate it when you mention that, not knowing the burden of not walking the same safe walk. Why want a glorious lifestory if you have only been masturbating on your own safe and selfish accomplishments in life ? Questions..
    Wanna know yourself? Well, deprive yourself, and be alone whilst not breaking mirrors that you don't like. Destroy cognitive bias. Help others and you will be remembered. Only sincerity/sincere deeds will remain. Remain positive.. the rest destroys more than you think. Even after you're gone. Waves.
    Oh yeah..btw you were supposed to read this with an UK voice and don't forget to visit my giftshop. (but you're to busty being butthurt and proud right now trying to come up with something edgy to counter my words with?)

  9. I love knowing I signify nothing. That we all mean nothing.
    It’s deeply comforting as a thought, because if we don’t matter then neither do our failures.
    This acceptance and joy at contemplating meaningless fills me with awe at the sheer massive scale of this gorgeous universe. And comfort at the fact that no matter how fucked up we get as a species, we will most likely not fuck up the whole damn universe by ourselves.

  10. I simply cannot get enough of these inspirational videos. After watching a marathon of these videos, I gained much confidence to believe how my suppressed negative thoughts are definitely worth challenging. This is life changing! Thank you!

  11. she should have died hereafter . There would have been a time for such a word . Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow to the last syllable of recorded time . This petty pace that lighted fools the way to dusty death . Out ,out ,brief candle .; A walking shadow , a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage …and then is heard no more . It is  a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury , signifying …nothing !

  12. Unfulfilled plans and dreams lead to sorrow.

    Story if life will give insight to be meaningful.

    Garner hope, write an autobiography. Universal activity.
    Who are you and where are you going?

    What story do you tell yourself?
    Your life is meaningful with failure and mistakes.

    All experiences develop you to anew level of maturity.

    Circumstances may affect your life but don't over personalize.

    Explain it and tell it using the frame of who you are.

  13. id like to think after all that life has delivered, that for just shy of a decade i had become quite self aware, tolerant and having a non bias awareness that peoples actions and reactions are the possibility of being subject to there persons lifes influence that could be hidden beneath their emotional surface. now iv come to watch so my of these school of life videos. i was grateful to have had reconfirmation that i was not alone in my thoughts and views.
    so why is it that after viewing all of these videos iv come across this one, and the moment i even so much as begin the entertain the idea of a reflective autobiography i burst into hysterical tears.
    life truely has been cruel so you continued to be kind to counter the balance.
    the problem is kind understanding people are few and far between these days and though you have learnt to become empathetic. im alone in this and the world continues to become a darker place.

  14. I can't believe this! I was just having a conversation this morning with a young man in his early twenty' s I said to him allway's be aware of your
    self awareness and of others as well
    There is a lot of underlying currents in one's life not untill you walk a mile in another person's shoes can you begin to evaluate their path of their life.

  15. This is so beautiful, so important, and so relevant. I've never immediately re-watched a video on YouTube before in my life. And I imagine I'll be coming back to this on a regular basis. Thank you for this beautifully made video—packed full of value but also put together in such a way that feels soothing and healing to watch.

  16. it's true we do narrate to ourselves everyday !… Everyday I wake up , my mind is set like a blank page for the day to write upon .great incidental music btw , what is it called ? .. It fits the video like a glove …very apt …and one of my favs from school of life !…we all think we have failed at some point of reference ,and turn it to an advantage . "  My head is full of decayed teeth and my mind is full of decayed ambitions "- James Joyce .

  17. I was actually searching for how to create a life legacy biography video and found this page. If anyone has any thoughts on this I'd really appreciate it. My aunt has a great life story and I'd like to find a way to professionally record it in the New York City area. thanks!

  18. There are group of crooked people who serves the Devil and will try to have you believe their ways—know who you serve
    Trust in the wisdom and knowledge of Christ and God

  19. Here is my story:
    October 1st 2003 I am born in Houston, Texas to my 20 yr old Shellie and 23 yr old Zane Hayes.
    My life until school I lived in League City which was a smaller city near Houston. My mom and dad grew up in a small town in Center, Texas which was near the border of Louisiana. My parents moved to League City so my mom could go to college at Sam Houston University. My dad worked as a machine operator for Texas drainage, they digged ditches on the side of roads so they wouldn't flood from rain. Fortunately, my mom's grandparents lived in Houston because my great grandfather was a business man. So I had somewhere to stay when my mom had college. We visited Center where I see my grandparents and my aunt. Mom had a friend who had a son named Corbyn whom I became friends with in Center.
    I always had an obsession with airplanes as my dad's father was a pilot who landed in League City to get me to Center faster in his own airplane so he was fun to hang around with.
    2009 and 2011 I went to school. I thought school was cool at the time and I made many friends there.
    2011 During the summer, my mom got a call from her dad, Rick, saying that my aunt Kelsie (her sister) snuck out with friends and got injured in a car wreck. And she was in a coma. My mom and I went back to Tyler, a town near Center with a good hospital. I wasn't allowed to see her because I couldn't go in the ICU. I had to sit with my dad's parents and mom's friends came to visit the hospital so I wasn't alone in the waiting room. That summer, my mom's mother died from stress and because of that, my parents decided to move back to Center. So I moved to Center. Kelsie had recieved a permanent speech problem and couldn't walk straight anymore as a result of the wreck. I had moved to Center and started 2nd grade there. Making new friends was difficult but I eventually did. My dad still had to work in Houston so I only saw him on weekends or holidays when he was off. He and some of his friends were gonna build a house in Center so we didn't have to live with my grandparents. But it was slow.
    2012 Rick met someone from New York on a dating website named Lori. She was wierd. Rick and Lori visited each other for a while but broke up because Lori disrespected my mom and they got into an arguement.
    2013 Rick's health began to decrease. He got surgeory often and became a slob. Not showering, growing a beard, dressing inproperly, being lazy and peeing into a bucket outside. It was a good reason for my mom to start getting ready to move out. My mom had big news too. She was pregnant! And I was excited.
    October 20th 2013 My mom gave birth to my sister we named Brynlee.
    We were now able move out to our new home.
    Febuary 12 2014 Rick died in the hospital from cancer. He smoked a lot which my family begged him to stop long before. Now Kelsie had to move in with us.
    2018 It's been pretty solid so far. I am in highschool right now and living a life. Getting my drivers permit and hunting this season. May I wish you Happy Thanksgiving to everyone and thank you for reading this.

  20. That's me in life !…like the ill fated Sisyphus ; The up hill stuggle for all eternity . I don't know whether this makes me a bolder person towards challenges in life ….or just simply  a boulder person !??

  21. Even your own lif story is often a different 'truth' to the people who played major roles. So the question remains: Whose truth?

  22. Thank you Alain De Botton. Your voice is so compassionate, and your message so sincere. So happy to live on this time of humanity when we can reach wise people at the other side of the planet by just a simple click. I feel truly lucky

  23. We all watch some movies for one specific reason to see something about ourselves in said movie not knowing that the best script in life is the one we are writing personally.

  24. Over and over again to your story… To the sad picture, to the lame jokes and foolishness of all sorts.

  25. m here bcos I wanna narrate my story after deciding to walk away from a toxic relationship and I just cant stop crying

  26. "There are literally infinite ways to tell your story and no way is more wrong or false than the other way – but why do you have to choose the worst way?" – Dr. Igonmeldler

  27. It sounds all beautiful but way unrealistic. "We have to be able to forgive ourselves for our first drafts"….Well, there are no drafts. If you mess up, you can't go back and do it better. If you mess up your 20s, for example, they're gone.. I usually like your videos but this is just unhealthy sugarcoating of the reality, IMHO.

  28. I am convinced that the producer of these videos has had compassion instilled in their core being to a depth that is quite remarkable.
    Thank you for sharing your compassion, wisdom, and knowledge.

  29. I love this one! Especially the thing Alain said about not explaining everything in our life story with our decision and our power but also by luck or other circumstances. This is so human and brings so much forgiveness with it.

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