The first chapter doesn’t tell the whole story. If it did, the rest of the book would have no purpose.
Every bestselling book is far from predictable, and is filled with plot twists, surprises, and enticing foreshadowing that beckons the reader onward. It’s delightful when the author throws in unexpected twists and the story has a surprise ending.
Even with the best books, once I’ve read a chapter, I’m done with it. There’s no need to go back to re-read previous chapters because I’ve been there, done that. If I do go back, it’s because there’s an important piece of information I want to retrieve, an insight I want to gain, and then I return to where I’d left off, and begin reading anew.
What’s true of books isn’t always true in the way we live life. As humans, we have a tendency to revisit and relive some of the most difficult and painful chapters of our history, and often believe the previous chapters determine how our lives must continue.
Earlier in my life, I spent most of my mental-coin reviewing past chapters. I rarely experienced the gifts and potential of the present moment. The chapters I revisited most were those filled with times of difficulty, pain, disappointment, failure and challenge. The negative situations were sticky and held power over me.
This human tendency to focus on what’s hard or painful is called the inherent negativity bias. This is an evolutionary capacity whose purpose is to increase our chances of survival, paying more attention to the challenging, the life threatening. For me, this tendency wasn’t at all helpful for my survival but, instead, was sucking the life out of me. I know this is true for many others.
Living in the virtual reality of the past often keeps us trapped in re-living painful chapters. Our minds and bodies re-experience each painful event as though it’s still happening. And we suffer, often limiting ourselves and what we’re willing to try, based on the difficulties of the past.
The good news is, with conscious awareness, we can learn to balance this negative tendency and allow more of the good stuff into our awareness. We can write a new chapter.
Freedom arrived when I realized I alone am the author and principal actor in my own story of life. Learning to create my own plot twists, turning the first chapters of my life on their ears, I’m living a life I never could have imagined. The early chapters of my life have simply become the back story from which surprising endings are created.
As it sits, my book of life is still incomplete, but I am betting it ends with a happily ever after. Each day offers us new possibility to write a different chapter.
Nobody else can write our book for us. It’s up to us to write our own story.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.