294: How to be the Director of Your Life: 6 Key Components

“You shouldn’t dream your film, you should make it!” —Steven Spielberg To live actively requires we take action. Seems simple enough, but if teaching my students as well as myself to refrain from using passive verbs versus active verbs in writing indicates anything, defaulting to the passive is happens to be a hard habit to […] Listen now or continue reading below.

“You shouldn’t dream your film, you should make it!” —Steven Spielberg

To live actively requires we take action.

Seems simple enough, but if teaching my students as well as myself to refrain from using passive verbs versus active verbs in writing indicates anything, defaulting to the passive is happens to be a hard habit to break.

What if we are defaulting in the same way in our everyday life and, even more largely, in our vision of how our journey will unfold?

A new-to-me podcast, Solo: The Single Person’s Guide to a Remarkable Life, shared an insightful approach to living life which caught my attention immediately. What if we, instead of being the hero of our own lives, choose to be the director?

Think about it for a moment. When we look at a film from the point-of-view from the real world, the hero in the film/movie/novel/play merely follows the directions of the person behind the camera – the Greta Gerwigs (Oscar nominated director for Little Women), the Kathryn Bigelow (Oscar winning director for The Hurt Locker), the Steven Spielbergs (Oscar winning director for Lincoln), the Amma Asantes (Mrs. America), the Jennifer Getzingers (Orange is the New Black and Mad Men), the Julie Delpys (2 Days in Paris), and the Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman).

“Humble perseverance and the ability to observe and grow, in pursuit of making what you love and believe in. Really. THAT is the secret”. —Patty Jenkins, director of Wonder Woman

To be the director of our lives assumes the responsibility of having a larger vision for the purpose of each scene, each chapter; however, within each moment, each interaction and revelation, the director knows fully how to craft a scene so as to bring forth a dedication to being present, fully engaged and intentionally clear and knowing about living fully.

Being a hero, in theory, is not a bad directive, but it neglects the reality of being a hero – whether saving themselves or another or an entire vast swath of others – the climatic drama of adversity is assumed. And then there is the tragic hero. No thank you.

This is not to say that we can direct ourselves to avoid all conflict and adversity. No. From such unwanted and unplanned pains, we grow, we learn, and we gain wisdom, clarity, and strength; however, if we only relegate ourselves to being the hero, we follow a script written by another and directed by someone else as well. While there have been directors who directed themselves, there is a reason why only one has done so and been able to capture an Oscar for both roles – Roberto Benigini in Life is Beautiful (1999), which also one for best Foreign Film as well. It’s hard to see yourself clearly – your actions, facial expressions, energy on screen with another, etc..

But wait, if you direct your life, aren’t you also the hero? Valid point, and an important one to make. Yes. You are in all actuality both the director and the hero, but again, the director decides who leaves a scene when, how the interactions with others will play out, which details must be included in a shot to further understanding for the audience, what remains out of the shot, the colors of the attire, where the scene is set, the background, the music, all of the details as well as the over-arching storyline (and while often the director is also the playwright or at the very least has some say in how the screenplay is depicted and can mold and tweak it to what would be best for the film, the director has the full reins of the production). What I am saying is we must not forget our primary job – to be the director of our one and only life.

Let’s take a look at everyday and large over-arching choices and actions imperative for directing our lives well.

1.Who are you?

Taking the time to know yourself, unearth your talents, becoming honest about your weaknesses but refusing to let them halt the direction you wish to travel sits at the foundation of a well-lived life.

~Read this three-part series on How to Get To Know Yourself

~Read/Listen to this post/episode to discover how knowing ourselves is the most important ingredient for a healthy relationship with another (episode #179)

2. Learn how to love well

Loving well is a skill. We do not know innately how to love another human being as doing so involves emotional intelligence and self-awareness. Models of love or what is purported as love surround us, but many are faulty and derive from a genesis rooted in control, insecurity and many other unhealthy constructs. To follow leads to pain. Knowing leads to peace. Know how to love, and life will blossom.

~In episode #287, discover 5 Things to Do to Build a Healthy Relationship (inspired by the book – How to Be An Adult in a Relationship)

~Listen to episode #166 to discover how to be One Half of a Healthy Relationship

~One of my favorite books on love and being loving in a relationship inspired episode #128The Quest for a Soulmate: The Myth Hindering an Amazing Love Life

3. Understand the value of boundaries and understand they will evolve

Boundaries define us, as Henry Cloud reminds. Literally, the lines we put in our lives define what we will step forward and try and what we will not. Boundaries can limit us. Boundaries can protect us. Boundaries paradoxically can set us free.

Knowing how to set boundaries after we have discovered what our boundaries need to be for the chapter in our life we find ourselves gifts us with a powerful foundation. Without boundaries, the wind can take us where it will because we don’t know what where we want to go and we certainly don’t know how to head in the right direction.

On the flipside, rigidity when it comes to boundaries can be harmful if it prevents us from exploring what we are capable of sharing with the world. Ah, a tenuous dance which requires of each of us to do our own homework, not follow, because it is our heart, our life that will be set free when we find the sweet spot between the right boundaries and vulnerability. (Listen to episode #126 to discover the Powerful Couple that is Boundaries & Vulnerability.)

4. Learn the skill of effective nonviolent communication

For every director who wins praise from their cast and crew, there is a director who bullies, rants and whines. Effective communication, nonviolent communication, is a skill we must choose to learn if we want to have a fulfilling life and strong and healthy relationships with others.

To model said communication, observe someone who understands the components of nonviolent communication certainly helps us to acquire the skill, but we must take it one step further to understand why they are communicating as they are. We must again be the student for our lives to reach their fullest potential.

As I shared in episode #293, I highly recommend reading Marshall Rosenberg’s book Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. I have read and will reread this book for understanding how to understand anger, understanding the four basic steps of clear, effective, empathetic communication, and how to honor my own journey, letting go of guilt, shame, anything the outside world wishes me to feel in order to stop me from traveling a path that brings joy.

Effective communication with ourselves and others is the way toward directing an award-winning life to continue with the analogy. To clearly convey and know what you wish to materialize, you need to be able to work with others being empathetic and aware along the way, not only of those who will walk with you or cross your path, but with yourself.

5. Understand and practice the fundamental physical components of you

To delve a bit deeper into the physical aspect of #1, knowing how your body, your mind, your temperament function and how they can function well will give you a roadmap of how to design the set of your life. It will also help you clearly understand what your boundaries need to be.

6. Be Brave

Living an active life, being the director of your own life demands of you to take action.

You cannot wait to see what someone else thinks, whether someone else approves, whether the prices will be this or that or another, at some point, you simply need to act.

Wait a second, you may be saying, didn’t I say each of us is the director not the actor? Okay, perhaps a poor choice of words, but not really. Remember, you are the director of those actions. You decide when to take the first steps, when to set out and try something for the first time, when to let go, when to say yes, when to determine a certain chapter of your life has now concluded and you will be stepping into the next.

Being brave. A choice made by the director, and it is no act. Being brave takes raw courage after months, perhaps years of deliberating about when or if you should indeed do just that – be brave. Let me reassure you, being brave will set you free. In the meantime, you will quake, but you will not crumble if what you seek aligns with what you know to be true about yourself (remember #1).

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.” —Helen Keller

The analogy of the director does not perfectly align with living our one and only life. After all, we are talking about a fictitious story capable of being enjoyed for generations. Our lives are anything but fictitious. No, we know our lives are all too real, but do we?

I ask this question because what if poet David Whyte correctly nailed it when he wrote “What if the world is holding its breath – waiting for you to take the place only you can fill?” Why aren’t we filling it? Perhaps because we have chosen to follow someone else’s script, and not direct our own. Perhaps because we have forgotten to write our own script and direct it as well. We can have chapters in our own lives, the one prior being necessary for the next, not less relevant or bad, simply vital to live the journey we are on, trusting the steps we need to take in a new direction.

Today, tap yourself, hire yourself, assign yourself purposely and intentionally as the director of your life, and I am confident, you will begin to see the positive and desired change which may have only been a dream previously.

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~8 Ways to Become the CEO of Your Own Life, episode #40

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8 thoughts on “294: How to be the Director of Your Life: 6 Key Components

  1. Well done, so much to ponder! I think most of us are in a state of “who am I and what do I want from life” during this year of upheaval. Some people may finally be unable to avoid the thoughts that have always been sequestered in the backs of their minds. Current times may have also brought forth the feelings of “am I really living life for me, or based on how others think I should be living?” Being the director in our lives gives us the power to decide about which direction (oops sorry for the pun!) to take and making sure we have the final say. Hopefully, we consider the big picture but we must chose OUR paths and not allow too many “cooks in the kitchen.” Thanks for an insightful post to contemplate!

    1. Michelle, I think you are right. For some a forced introspection, and it can only lead to helpful ahas that if we have the courage to embrace them could change our life journey for the better. Thank you for stopping by and tuning in. 🙂

  2. Good stuff, this.
    As a college ‘bohemian’ theatre person many moons ago, I remember explaining and expounding to my compatriots, in those late-night, sometimes raucous, kitchen debates, that there could be no freedom without parameters.
    And I love Brene Brown on being brave: “Being brave is not about the absence of fear; it is the courage to be vulnerable…” and her epiphany involving Theodore Roosevelt’s quote about being in the arena and those who are not.
    I was not familiar with David Whyte’s quote. It gave a beautiful breathless pause when I read it. Thank you, Shannon, wonderful post.

    1. Rona, always enjoy your comments and your lyrical insights – musical and soothing. 😌 What a thought provoking paradox you share from your past. Thank you. Yes, Brown’s words are wise and helpful to explore. Thank you for stopping by. 💛

  3. Extremely insightful and well done! After listening today, I realized that when I did a mid-career change that I had become the “director” of my life. Each of the aspects you list resonates with how I gained much more satisfaction and unleashed my passions for my career pursuits. Thank you for this podcast.

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