I often look at my life as segments, as chapters in the story that I'm living out day after day. There are many times in my life when it seems pretty obvious that one chapter is ending, while another is beginning. Sometimes it's the result of something rather dramatic, such as a job change or a move to another place; other times, the changes are much more subtle, such as not seeing a certain friend nearly as much, or improving the way I do my job or changing the way I eat.
No matter what the change, though, it's fascinating to think of starting anew in life. I know many people who don't really know what it's like to start anew, because they're afraid of letting go of the past, afraid of venturing into the unknown and taking what probably will be significant risks. But when I look at such changes as chapters, I realize that with any change that I go through in life, I have the benefit of bringing along with me all my prior learning and experience, but I also have the possibility of leaving behind me all of the negative experiences and feelings. As I write new chapters in my life through my words and deeds and actions and reactions, I really do have a choice as to how I want the new chapter to proceed.
I also keep in mind that in many ways, I'm creating more than one book and living through the chapters of several books at a time. After all, the book of my relationships moves on to new chapters at different times than does the book of my work. I may learn something very important about how I relate to other people at one time, yet learn something important about my job--or move on to another job--at a completely different time. While I begin the next chapter of the book of my spirituality next week, I may be stuck in the same chapter of the book of my intellectual growth until next spring.
I like to see these books as reflections of growth, not simply as changes. I like to see the chapters as having positive progressions as I leave behind unhelpful habits and limited ways of thinking and destructive ways of treating other people, and move on to doing helpful things, thinking more productively and positively, and treating other people in constructive ways. It really is my choice, of course, because I choose if I'm going to learn and grow, or if I'm going to stay stuck in the same patterns that hold me back and hold me down.
How many of us would like to imagine starting a new job and immediately getting stuck in old habits of complaining and being bored and getting stuck in ruts? How many of us would want the new job to turn into exactly what the old job was after a month or two, except for a different setting and different people around us? But that's exactly what happens to many, many people in the world who don't use the job as an opportunity to write new stories--stories about being helpful to their co-workers, about excelling at what they do instead of doing adequate work, about learning all they can about their job and responsibilities and getting really good at it all.
How many of us would like to move to a new city and have our lives become exactly what they were in the old city after a few weeks? Wouldn't we rather be taking advantage of new opportunities and seeing new things and learning about our new environment? Unfortunately, many people move to a new city and spend their free time with the same old TV shows or video games, never finding out just what the new place has to offer. They follow the same patterns that they followed in the previous chapter, and this new chapter becomes a repeat of the last one, with simply a different setting and different names.
Thinking about life in chapters is helpful to me because in times of trouble or stress, I can always remind myself that this chapter, too, shall come to an end. Since being laid off eighteen months ago, for example, the chapters that I've written have been difficult, at best, though still positive. I keep in mind, though, that the difficulties will come to an end as long as I persevere and do my best to make the most of my situations.
Thinking this way also helps me to excel in whatever I do, because I know that I don't necessarily need to see myself as building a strong life--which would look like an overwhelming task--but as creating strong chapters that comprise the overall whole of my life. And positive parts work together to create a positive whole.
We can start a new chapter any time we want. We can end the previous chapter with the words "And then he or she decided that a change was needed, and started. . . ." The new chapter would begin perhaps with words like, "Although it was difficult at first, she or he soon started to see the positive results of the changes in life." And after that, we would talk about the difficulties that the changes caused and then the positive results of it all. Starting a new chapter doesn't have to be an intimidating, ominous task; it can simply be a few minor changes in habits or attitude or perspective.
Our lives are made up of chapters, and we all go through our lives writing many different books at once. Once we're aware of this dynamic, wouldn't it be nice to be writing our own new chapters instead of hanging around and hoping that life writes them for us? It definitely is within our power to be doing so.