Classic-Straight-JacketI’ve talked recently about the myth of normal in our culture, how there is a story culture tells us of what a successful, happy, life really is. I’ve spoken about the importance of discovering our own identity and being the unique person we were created to be.

But there’s something more here.

This myth of normal is not something which just applies to the bigger stories of our culture. In each area of life, there is a story of what constitutes success, achievement, and failure.

And there are often 5-step or 7-step plans which promise guarantee success in these and many other areas.

Now, these can be very helpful and constructive – indeed, I’ve written a book on ‘5 Steps to Encouragement’. There is no doubt they can make a huge difference to our personal development. However, there is a danger inherent in these step by step formulas.

hat can happen is these become seen as the ‘only’ way, or ‘accepted’ way of doing things. They become a formula for success, to be stuck to legalistically and religiously. They become the ‘normal’ way to do things. Rather than a guide, they become the gospel for that particular area of life – when history shows they are clearly not – and ironically, they were probably never intended to be either.

When this happens we can begin to feel if our story doesn’t fit within this structure or model we can’t be successful, can’t be who we were called to be.Which causes tremendous damage.

In fact, it can become a straitjacket to us discovering our identity.

For example, in my area, writing, there’s been a story fed to me and others about how to achieve success. A formula which, I’ve been told,  if I follow will guarantee I get more readers, more exposure, and more success.

But this story has handicapped me as much as it’s helped me. It’s not that it’s a bad model, or that it’s not useful – but what I’ve discovered is that what has worked for others doesn’t necessarily work for me. And I’m not the only writer I know who has experienced this too.

Too often we’re fed formulas for success, and when we don’t achieve the success of others, we feel a failure. And we feel frustrated and downhearted. Which can lead us to give up.

Now of course, part of this is down to impossible expectations and the lethal sickness, which is preveilant in our culture, of comparison. But one of the major problems is that of us believing the formula or steps which are sold to us as the only or best way, are the only way.

I love writing. Above all, I love writing books. I’ve realised over time writing books, as well as my blog, is my primary calling. So I’m going to try and build the best blog I can, and write the best books I can. I’ll take advice from different people. Maybe take some tips from major authors, and from some courses.

But what I’ve realised is that I have to follow my own journey. My story will be different to everyone else’s.

Because the truth is, not every ‘successful’ writer has followed these steps, and they have somehow still been roaring successes. And the most important thing isn’t status, isn’t selling millions of books (though I admit, that would be great). It’s being true to who God made me to be. Living out my story in the way God designed me to.

And knowing the way other people achieve success isn’t the only way to achieve success anyway.

That’s important for all of us, whatever area of life we work in. Whatever our calling is. Recognising there’s no one way to build a successful business. Or grow a church. Or have a writing career.

Or any kind of career.

There’s no one formula for fulfilling your calling. Never believe the lie that there is. (you can tweet that here)

So whatever your career, whatever your calling, take advice from others who’ve walked the path before you. Pay heed to it. Even try out different recommended plans or strategies.

But don’t see them as foolproof.

And don’t be afraid to do things differently. Have no fear of living out your own story, in the way you were uniquely designed to live it.

To paraphrase Paul, don’t comform to the pattern of this world. But be transformed into your divine identity. Tell your own story.

That’s the one we need to hear. Those are the stories which transform the world.




Do you feel like your life has to fit into a 5, 7 or 12 step strategy?

Do you ever feel like you’ve failed if your story doesn’t fit?

Did you know it’s okay to have your own journey?





Let me know in the comments below!



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James Prescott

Hi, I’m James. I live near London. I’m a fan of good food, comic-book movies, & books. I love to write, and I coach other writers & creative people. Thank you for being part of my community. read more...

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