Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning. — Maya Angelou. Indeed, words on paper when infused with real life stories can have a profound effect on the reader.
There’s more to storytelling than nursery rhymes or fairy tales. Stories may well take the format of essay writing, memoirs, biographies, non-fiction books and more.
I’ve been reading a collection of remarkable stories in a picture is worth… This book is written by high school students and reveals the distressing challenges they faced in their lives. It was birthed from a desire to uncover the reasons behind the shockingly high number of students who dropped out of high school in Reading, Pennsylvania. The students are mostly from broken homes and dysfunctional families. Conflicts, emotional and physical abuse, migration, poverty and more were contributing to their low academic achievements.
I was extremely moved by the disturbing life experiences of the students in the book. Despite troubled pasts, they maintained a positive outlook, overcame challenges and set goals to improve their future.
As business people, entrepreneurs, parents, friends, teachers or whatever we are, we can learn positive life lessons from what those young people suffered from for most of their lives.
I would like to share Aaliyah’s distressing story with you. She’s a 15 year old girl with 25 brothers and sisters. She only knows a few of her siblings. She lived with a stepmother who often physically abused her for no apparent reason. On top of that, she made up stories that Aaliyah was offensive towards her. That was part of her plan to create hate between Aaliyah and her father. Aaliyah’s stepmother forced her to sleep on the hard, cold floor because she wanted her family to sleep on the bed instead.
Eventually, Aaliyah went to live with her mother in America. But life wasn’t how she had imagined it. She missed her brother and wanted to be reunited with him. However, her mother refused. Aaliyah switched from being a nice girl to becoming a problem child at home and school. Her education suffered and youth services got involved. The relationship between Aaliyah and her mother deteriorated. She suffered verbal and physical abuse and was treated like a prisoner at home.
Aaliyah reached a point of no return. Counselling didn’t have any effect. Home life was like a battlefield. She started using Facebook to befriend men. Unfortunately, she sent a naked photo of herself to one of the men who showed an interest in her. Somehow, her mother and stepfather saw the photo. She was humiliated. In desperation, she attempted to commit suicide, but that failed.
While in the hospital, she discovered that life was important. Aaliyah made changes and is working towards achieving her dream of becoming a nurse in the army. She said, “So a little info for the people who are reading this: It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to be around or like your mom ’cause she is your mom at the end of the day. Plus life will not always be fair. You just have to make it fair on your own.”
How to maintain a positive outlook
When life throws stones at you, use them as steps to walk toward your dreams. We will all face challenges during our lifetime. We may not be able to change some situations, but we can try to manage them positively. Believe in yourself. Make the most of your strengths and build upon your weaknesses.
See challenges as opportunities for growth. Instead of sinking under pressure, learn to tackle fear, self-pity and obstacles by developing resilience. Believe in yourself. Cultivate a habit of positive self-talk to remind yourself that you can achieve what you want. All it takes is determination, focus, effort and work to succeed.
How to overcome challenges
Lucy Casimiro also shared her story in a picture is worth… She got pregnant at 18. Tragically, her baby’s father died before she gave birth. She is a single mother who had to struggle to raise her son alone. This is her method for dealing with challenges: “My strongest trait is a strength. Yes, I am a strong, independent woman who will take all obstacles thrown at me as challenges to knock every one of them down.”
Change your story about yourself. Instead of saying “I can’t”, say “I will.” The story you tell yourself can help you succeed or fail. Many of us succeeded during the bad economy. Therefore, tell yourself positive stories, and leave the negatives at the bottom of the barrel where they belong.
How to set goals for improved life changes
In order for goals to work, they must be smart. That is, specific, manageable, attainable, relevant and time-based. Create a list of long-term goals. Then divide them into achievable short-term goals to enable you to record your progress as you achieve each goal.
As it was for Aaliyah, life may not be a bed of roses, and along the way the thorns will prick and hurt you. But every time you fall, pick yourself up and keep laboring until you get to where you desire to be. Your story will empower and inspire somebody else, who may find themselves where you used to be. Ultimately, your life is your story.
What about your story? How did it influence other people? Please share your thoughts in the comment.
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