How to live a great story

Relationship Design

Welcome to 2012.
This year, same as the past several years, I’m on a mission to write and live a better story.
How is living a better story accomplished?
There are several parts to a great story (taken from Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years).

  1. The characters.
  2. They have to want something.
  3. They have to move into the conflict in order to get what they want.
  4. And there has to be a climactic resolution.

So how exactly does this apply to you?
Every story has a main character.
That’s you … check.
The character has to want something.
Again, this is up to you. What do you want in life? This year? Today?
I’ll share a few things on my list. I also want Simple Marriage to be one of the best resources on the web for marriage and relationships. My wife and I both want to volunteer more in our community. We want to share life more with friends.
On a relational level, my wife and I want to continue to connect even more. To have more adventures, deeper conversations, better sex (yes, she’s on board with this, it’s not just my wish), and overall more fun together. To make this happen, we have to do more of the following.
The character has to move into the conflict in order to get what they want.
In the movies, this is called the inciting incident. It’s what sets the stage for the climactic ending where the main character saves the child, or defeats the bad guy, or goes the full fight with the much younger boxer.
On a marital level, we are presented countless opportunities to move into the conflict, but often this option is counter intuitive. Whenever you and your spouse disagree or see things differently, this is a great time to move into the conflict.
Bear in mind however, moving into the conflict doesn’t necessarily mean you must win.
If you enter into relational conflict with the plans on winning, you often wind up losing in the end. After all, if you must always be the winner, what’s that make your spouse?
I used to think that conflict was something to be avoided. That I could somehow navigate life and relationships without it. I’d take the easy way out of things. Even going so far as not speaking up if I was given the wrong meal at a restaurant.
During the first several years of marriage, I’d do almost anything to avoid conflict. I lived by the old adage – “happy wife, happy life” or “happy spouse, happy house.”
It didn’t take long to realize that when I lived according to other people’s happiness and when I habitually tried to avoid conflict, I harmed myself in the long run.
Conflict produces change.
Truth is, none of us really want to change. That’s why so many new years resolutions fail.
So what does it look like to move into conflict?
For you it may mean you finally voice your opinion on something. Or you speak up during sex because you’re getting nothing out of it at the moment. Or you start your own business on the side. Or you tell important people in your life “no” for the first time.
For me it meant speaking up and risk upsetting or disappointing my wife. It meant quitting a career to finish graduate school faster.
Basically, moving into conflict often is more about following your gut. In the midst of conflict, you generally have a gut feeling about the best way to handle the situation. Many times however, this is ignored and you simply react.
Slow down, breathe, listen to you gut.
There has to be a climactic resolution.
This is not simply when you die, although that definitely is a resolution. This is when you achieve your goal. When you connect deeper with your spouse. When you stand on top of the mountain.
Whatever it is, begin with the end in mind.
Imagine what it would be like to stand on top of the mountain. Or to truly have a mutually satisfying sexual encounter. Or a deeper connection.
This will help you envision the steps that may be necessary to get there.
Then move into the story and don’t look back.
What do you think?

(photo source)