The Ten Year Story Challenge

The internet is loaded up right now with side-by-side pictures of people ten years ago and today. Of course, we tend to do this kind of thing every year to some degree but there’s something about the turn of a decade and the years that end in zeroes that invites us to pay a little more attention.        

It might mean nothing for us to go into year 2020. For every five people that post a picture, we all have at least one friend who is compelled to remind us that these calendar changes are arbitrary and time is meaningless. In the end, it is meaningful if we decide that it is. 

This turn of the calendar gives us a chance to mark time. And since this is our business, these moments also invite us to pay attention to our story. Instead of comparing the visuals from the last ten years, looking for lines in our faces that weren’t there in 2010, or for the things we’ve learned about managing our eyebrows, we might use story as a way of watching the time pass.

The novelist E.M. Forster says that every story needs to happen on a clock. Time is a critical part of storytelling. Both time and story help us to feel grounded in the middle of a life that might feel like chaos. Stephen Crites, a professor of Moral Science and Philosophy argues that narratives are like music. They mark time. Even the smallest stories of our daily, or decade-ly, lives, connect us to the timeless stories and myths about what it is we’re all doing here. 

In other words, if life feels like an ocean to you, let Story be your raft, your buoy, your sunset. Let it help you find your place. 

As you consider the last ten years, look for the marks of a good story:

-What has changed? What’s different about your life entering 2020 than your life going into 2010?

-What’s the same? What are the threads that have held you together and shown up in your life no matter what the calendar said?

-What are the stakes of your story? What have you been wanting, chasing, losing or gaining?

-Can you see a trajectory to your story? Are you heading towards something or away from another?

-What are the thresholds that you’ve crossed over the last ten years? What have you learned and survived? 

-Are you at a threshold right now? When you look forward and flip to the back of the book, what do you hope to find there?

You don’t have to share all the answers online but it’s a great season to have this conversation with your favorite people over hot chocolate or toddies. Wonder together where you are in your stories and where you might be going.