“To be a person is to have a story to tell.” – Isak Dinesen
We’re fascinated by stories. Think about it. We spend hours watching movies, reading books, listening to music and podcasts. It’s human nature to gravitate towards stories.
There’s actually a science behind it. When we are being told a story, not only are the language processing parts in our brains activated, but any other area of the brain that would be used when experiencing the events of the story are too. For example, if someone tells a story about a delicious treat, our sensory cortex lights up. A good story can put your whole brain to work.
Science aside, our stories hold power. Storytelling transcends our past and gives a glimpse to the future. Stories are how we think and how we make meaning of our lives. Your life story can heal you and your story can heal someone else.
Below are 5 reasons to tell your life story:
1. Other people can benefit from your wisdom.
Telling your story can inspire and teach others. You might not think your stories overflow with wisdom, but they allow your audience to feel something that they haven’t felt themselves – whether it’s pain, joy, heartbreak, or love. Your experiences can teach something that young people especially can benefit from. You might be just the role model they’ve been searching for. We’re all humans. The stories that you tell will echo onto others - as we all live, love, hate, and die.2. Your stories are important to your family.
The experiences and stories from your childhood, of meeting your future wife, Sunday dinners with your grandparents, all provide context to your family. Your descendants will appreciate and cherish your life stories for generations to come. Simply sharing with your children and grandchildren the family they were born into can be exactly the reassurance they need. The older they get, the more curious they will be about who you were and what situations shaped you. Your stories are a glimpse of a life they'll never experience and the memories you leave behind will be cherished and spread by your loved ones. Your family will thank you for documenting your stories.
3. Build self-awareness.
Storytelling is a way to reflect on who you used to be and the journey to where you are now. By building your self-awareness, you’re able to understand people better, how they perceive you, your attitude, and your responses to them in the moment. Reflecting on your past self helps you celebrate your milestones and learn from your mistakes. Your narrative identity is the story of your life – but it’s more than just stories. How you understand your narrative frames your current actions and future goals. As Dan McAdams, Northwestern University psychology professor, explains:
The stories we tell ourselves about our lives don’t just shape our personalities - they are our personalities.
4. Relate to one another.
Sharing stories brings people together. When you hear a good story, you develop empathy with the storyteller and the situation. Think about it. Your friend tells you a story about her family from her childhood and you suddenly have a significantly better understanding of her and in return your relationship is strengthened. Sharing life stories allows the teller and listeners to find commonalities. Stories give context to the person’s life and connect us to something greater than ourselves. Humans are social beings and meaning is found in community.
5. It’s fun!
Writing your life story can be complex, involving narrative flow, character development, and dialogue. Or it can be surprisingly easy and fun. If you’re a natural storyteller and writing is a hobby of yours, writing a memoir or autobiography can be very fulfilling. However, you can still reap all the benefits of storytelling without over complicating your story. When was the last time you reminisced on your youth? This nostalgia is good for us in more ways than one, research shows. An ancient memory of rainbow snow cone juice running down your sticky chin might be the forgotten memory that will put a smile on your face.
If storytelling has all these benefits, why isn't everyone doing it? Staring at a blank piece of paper or screen when you have a lifetime of memories inside of your head may seem like a daunting task. To help get you started on sharing your life stories, we’ve developed an easy and fun (and free!) guide. The process was modeled after life writing workshops, and is led by a professional writing instructor who coaches you every step of the way through short videos.
No one has lived or seen the exact same things than you, in the same place and moment. Do you understand how special that is? Take the time and tell your stories. You’ll feel good and you just might touch others, too.
TSOLife focuses on creating innovative ways to preserve legacy and pass down life stories for future generations. Our mission is that no grandchild should have to wonder what their grandparent was like. Our unique solutions create the most personalized way to pass down personal stories that families will share and cherish for generations.