The other day a member of the audience came to me after I had delivered a talk and she said: “Wow, your story is so powerful!” I thanked her, and I also shared with her that I had chosen to tell a powerful story of my life. Here’s what I mean:

I qualified as a medical doctor but found that I struggled to find meaning in what I was doing when I was working in the public health system. I then took the decision to leave the profession and I’ve since reinvented myself as an author, speaker and coach.

Those are the facts of the events that happened. Now for the story.

The initial story I created out of those facts was: “I have failed. I’ve let people down. I’ve let myself down.” This was a story of guilt, shame and disappointment. This was certainly not a powerful story.

Here’s the story I now tell: “As a little girl I had big dreams of changing the world. I became a doctor because I thought that was where I could make the most difference. When I found myself working in environments where I felt I wasn’t making a difference, I made the decision to walk away. I have since written about my journey, which has helped thousands of doctors who face similar struggles. I now see that I am indeed making a difference, just in a different way to what I had initially imagined.”

Events are facts. Stories, however, are interpretations of those facts. The thing with stories is that they become the filters through which you interpret future events and the place from which you live. When I was telling myself that I had failed, I avoided situations where I thought I would be “exposed” and I constantly second guessed myself because I didn’t want to fail again. Now I happily share my story with people because I know it makes a difference.

You have a choice about how to interpret the facts of your life. You can create a story of doom and gloom, or you can choose to see the lessons in the struggles and to craft an empowering story for yourself.

  • Start by acknowledging the facts. You can’t change what you are unwilling to acknowledge.
  • Interrogate the facts. Ask the difficult questions. What happened? What went wrong? Could I have done things differently?
  • Pay attention to the lessons and the insights. I believe that our lives have purpose and that life constantly offers us opportunities for growth and learning. Take those opportunities and learn the lessons.
  • Apply the lessons. Use the insights you have gained to craft an empowering story of your life. Share that story with others, because it will also empower them.

Life happens to all of us, and it’s up to each of us to choose how we interpretation the challenges we face. An empowering story not only enables us to find meaning in what happens, it also inspires other people to do the same.

Now that’s powerful!

Originally published at