Stories are one of the most powerful forms of alchemy. As one of my favorite storytelling mentors, Martin Shaw, says: "The business of stories is not entertainment. The business of stories is waking up."
Like all potent types of magic, though, stories can be misused, and the results of such abuse can be disastrous.
I'm not talking here about rumors or malicious gossip; I'm talking about the kinds of stories you tell yourself about yourself. How large or small are these stories?
Michelangelo said, "The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss our target, but that it is too low and we reach it."
If the story I tell myself is one of scarcity and lack – whether of resources, ambition, opportunity or will, then this is the story I will always find myself in. "If you keep telling the same sad small story, you will keep living the same sad small life," said visionary philosopher Jean Houston.
Just as with a set of clothes, sometimes you'll discover a story that used to fit perfectly is no longer comfortable. The truth is, you've outgrown it. To keep trying to cram yourself into it is like Cinderella's stepsisters trying to cram their feet into the glass slipper. Even though one cut off her heel and the other chopped off her toes, the end result was still a bloody mess. You can't get where you want to be by deliberately crippling who you really are.
If you feel the story you find yourself in right now is getting a bit snug, then it's probably time to try on something bigger.
To encourage you to stretch into a more expansive story, I've compiled a short list of some of the quotes that have inspired me on my journey. It's a mixed bag for sure, and for every one I've chosen, there are probably at least half a dozen more that could be equally inspiring. Nonetheless, it's a start.
If you copy these quotes to your own computer, increase the font size, print them out, cut them into strips, and tape the ones that speak to you where you can see them, you'll have them around whenever you need a reminder to live your story according to poet Diane Ackerman's injunction: "I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well."
So here we go:
"You must be willing to get rid of the life you've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for you." (Joseph Campbell)
"There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you." (Maya Angelou)
"Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step." (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
"It is only possible to live happily ever after one day at a time." (Margaret Bonnano)
"When Death comes, may it find you alive." (African proverb)
"When I dare to be powerful – to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid." (Audre Lorde)
"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." (Howard Thurman)
"The point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer." (Rainer Maria Rilke)
"Miracles rest not so much upon healing power coming suddenly near us from afar but upon our perceptions being made finer, so that, for the moment, our eyes can see and our ears can hear what has been around us always." (Willa Cather)
"When the story is a good one, then teller, listeners, and the story itself all merge into one inseparable whole. In such moments, magic arises, and the true work of the story gets underway." (Jon Kabat-Zinn)
I've repurposed this illustration by Warwick Goble to accompany Cinderella's poem in my books, Happily Ever After...Or Maybe Not? and Is It Okay for Girls to Slay Their Own Dragons? She knows that even when the shoe fits you may deserve more. You can check out her story here: http://www.storypotions.com/pages/happily-ever-after