"If life is just a collection of short stories and I don't like the story I've created, can I create a new story?" 

One of the many realities that we face now, and increasingly so in the next 25 years, are the forces that changing age demographics offer the word in the 21st century. One of the more interesting aspects of that change is the tremendous number of men and women who will reach their fifties and sixties and find themselves out of the traditionally competitive work market, many by choice rather than chance. With a higher level of health and wealth than ever before in history, these "seniors" will not be satisfied with spending their retirement in recreational vehicles and playing pinochle in the Arizona sun. They will be just as vibrant and creative in their fifties, sixties and seventies as they were in their twenties & thirties and they will be increasingly unwilling to do nothing. 

In my coaching practice I work with many such clients. People who are interested in reeducating themselves, building second careers, starting their own businesses, doing community service, being involved in making a difference in the world but with a specific plan. Many such clients have a dream that originated when they were very young but which was put aside to compete in some more lucrative field. Others burn out from the intensity that their field's demand and still others simply grow tired of the inevitable changes, pace and unsettled nature of our youth oriented work culture. Several things seem to be common however...a deep concern about the state of the society, a desire to give something back and an unwillingness to just grow idly old. But how does one just change their story and jump into new arenas of experience? What does it take?

What are the first steps?

Let's take a short ride into storyland and find out.

First of all, I would have to concur with the opening sentence. In fact, I base much of my practice on it. In an earlier Transitions I talked about the nature of stories and how the stories we choose to accept as our reality become our reality. That does not necessarily mean that those stories are true, it just means that we have chosen to accept them as true. In fact, it is a well known axiom in psychology that very little of what we remember of our formative youth actually happened even close to how we remember it. So, the trick is to re-remember, or reframe, our her/history. It really does not serve us to attempt to erase the old stories without the help of a therapist. Actually, it might be argued that it doesn't serve to erase those stories under any circumstances as the process of eraser itself can often lead to greater reinforcement of the behaviors those stories produced. They are, after all, the stories we've lived our whole lives with and they belong to us. Denying them, making believe they don't belong to us is one contributor to the phenomenon men often experience called "mid-life crisis" or worse. The trick is to accept the old stories and add new ones that serve us better.

I gave up a career as a furniture designer/manufacturer at the age of 49 to return to school and become a therapist and writer. It did not require renegotiating my history...a part of me will always be those things and they formed me. What it did take, however, was a commitment to become more than I was. I had no guarantee that I could be a therapist, I just knew that I wanted to do that and I could do it if I wanted to create a life that would support me becoming one. So, I created a story that would support that outcome. It wasn't easy and it certainly was not without a lot of pain and insecurity, but it became a compelling desire which is the ultimate element of success in any action.

I often go back to a line that I used in an earlier Transitions, "if you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got." The reason that it is so true is that unless we do change our story, we will always go back to our old patterns. Changing behaviors alone is not enough. That is one reason why diets don't work. Diets are generally based on behavioral change (no fats, no carbo's, no pizza) not changing the story about why we let ourselves get overweight in the first place. With very few exceptions, once the weight is lost we resume our story and the pizza gets delivered regularly. One does not permanently change a behavior without changing the story that goes with the behavior.  

So be aware of what your stories are and what they are creating for you. If you want to have more/different/better, create a story that will support that creation. It's not a s difficult as it may seem.

© 2007, Kenneth F. Byers

Other Transition Issues, Books

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A permanent state of transition is man's most noble condition. - Juan Ramon Jimenez

Ken Byers holds a Ph.D. in psychology with an emphasis in Men's Studies, one of the few ever awarded in the U.S. Ken is a full time Certified Professional Life Coach specializing in working with men in any form of transition and an instructor of design at San Francisco State University.

His books, "Man In Transition" and "Who Was That Masked man Anyway" are widely acknowledged as primers for men seeking deeper knowledge of creating awareness and understanding of the masculine way. More information on Ken, his work and/or subscription information to the weekly "Spirit Coach" newsletter which deals with elements of the human spirit in short commentary, check the box at or or or E-Mail You are welcome to share any of Ken's columns with anyone without fee from or to him but please credit to the author. Ken can be reached at: 415.239.6929.

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