Flip Your Script: How to Shape Your Own Happiness

What’s Happening in Your Story, Right Now?

We all have a story; whether we know it or not, the story we tell ourselves about our reality dictates our perception of the world about us. Our brains love narrative. Perhaps you live a story that was given to you by what others told you about you.  And you’ve never really thought that you could create the chapters. It just never occurred to you that perhaps you hold the pen that writes the chapters. 

The truth is, we all, each day by our actions, decisions, and attitude, can explore possibilities and create opportunities. But, on the other hand, we can also choose to interpret the world as full of problems.

Who are you in your story? Are you the villain? Or perhaps the victim?  Or maybe, you’re just an extra. And the story just goes on around you. If that feels like you, I’ve got good news! You weren’t born just to be an extra. You were born to be the central character in the story of your life. 

You are the hero of your own story. 

If you’ve never thought about your life in this way, then this is your invitation to put yourself back into your story as the hero. 

First, I want to give you a peek into my story to understand why this concept is essential to me.  A few years ago, I experienced a time where two awful events happened in short succession.

 Two unpleasant events crashed together like furious waves that converged and floored me—sweeping me up in painful, turbulent emotions. Those waves were physical trauma and the passing of a close friend who lost her battle with cancer.

 And at that point, I realised that if I didn’t find a way to think differently about what I was experiencing, I would remain bitter and twisted or, worse, unable to recover. And I want to pass some of this learning onto you. We’ve each experienced negative turns in our story. And like me, we can turn them around. We can flip the script.

How Did I Move From Overwhelm Into Opportunity and Flip My Script?

 Let’s take a deeper dive into this idea of flipping the script.

“We can’t make a change unless we learn something new.”

So then, if we want to change up our storyline and flip the script, we will need to be open to learning more about ourselves.  

For this learning, we will use some of the science and the research on happiness to help us. What you will gain is a way to free yourself up and move forward or become comfortable letting the emotions go when adverse events have happened. 

First, we will look at how above and below the line events in our lives shape us. Then we’ll take a deeper dive into the science I mentioned before. And the relationship between post-traumatic stress disorder and post-traumatic growth. And finally, I’m going to show you how some of those adverse events can be instrumental to our growth and learning, enhancing our quality of life.

So, I just want to recap my story briefly. Before, I said that these two very extreme events came together to form an adverse turn in my storyline, life, and circumstance. I had gone through some trauma, and at the same time, my best friend passed away. These events left me devastated.

Now, as often happens with our below the line life events. We often find that not only is the event itself dangerous to our physical and emotional health, but it reveals allies and enemies too. 

My supporters were close friends who brought their strength to my situation. They were there for me. They checked in on me, and at times it was their strength alone that pulled me through by their positive words. They knew something more about me, and even though I was struggling, they believed that I would succeed in the end, I was able to hold onto that. And I’m sure that’s true of you. During your negative times, you found allies, people there for you, the good guys, in your story.

But just like in a classic fairy tale, I also found I had some enemies. Unfortunately, the organisation which I thought would be there to support me didn’t follow their procedure. And because they didn’t do that, it meant that I was re-victimised. So now, not only had I suffered this trauma, but I was re-victimised by those who should have protected me. It was tough to unscramble all the emotions and helplessness I found inside myself because now it wasn’t just the perpetrator. I felt betrayed and let down too. That re-victimisation became a stumbling block for my recovery and an added complication to my healing process.

What to Do When the Story Goes From Bad or Worse?

Let’s take a deeper dive into some science around happiness to understand something that may not be obvious.  We know there is much research into what happens to people when they go through dramatic events that result in trauma. This type of trauma is often referred to as post-traumatic stress disorder. And like all researched conditions, it can be depicted in a bell curve, that shows, the expected probability of someone experiencing specific symptoms associated with the condition, in this case, the symptoms of trauma. But what’s lesser-known and talked about is the bell curve of post-traumatic growth. 

Now, what does this mean? If you’ve been through something traumatic, you can’t go back; you can’t rewrite your history, nor can you deny that it happened to you, so you can’t dismiss it. And it would be morally and ethically, wrong for anyone else to ignore such an event either. It’s valid. It happened; it was terrible. The idea is not to turn a negative into a positive, and trying to be an optimist about a tragedy is annoying.

However, the journey of post-traumatic growth shows us that if we can find a way to make meaning or live in more meaningful ways, we can discover or return to a sense of coherence. We’re able to live happier lives as a result. 

For example, when my friend passed away after a four-year battle with cancer, she left behind young children and a husband. I just couldn’t make any meaning out of this. And it was a real struggle for me. Why should that happen? Why her, she was so young? She was a good person, warm, caring and the life and soul of every party.  I just couldn’t fathom why life was so unfair.

And during my grief journey, there was anger and denial and everything that goes with that process. Then, finally, I came to realise that my friend would never have to go through this for me. 

She wasn’t suffering this grief journey. And the truth was I was strong enough to bear this, knowing she would never have to experience it for me. Her loss helped me realise how short and fragile life is and I realigned my priorities. And it also meant that I grew in compassion, and that’s never gone away. 

Our adverse story turns then; they give us a choice. We can choose to stay overwhelmed or bitter and twisted, or we can choose to write our storyline from a different perspective. Finally, despite the pain, we can allow ourselves to find meaning, make meaning, let go, and grow as a result. When everything looks darkest and the chips are down, we learn something new about who we are, and in that learning we’re given a unique opportunity to rise up and become our most heroic selves.

What Does It Mean to Write a Better Story?

We’ve found that we can have above and below the line experiences. And when we have below the line experiences, we’re likely to find allies who help us and share their strength with us. And we also may have enemies who somehow seem to make a bad situation worse. So, accepting these facts helps bring more clarity and awareness, and it can be conducive to us in the process of coming right.

And negative turns, when explored by asking ourselves curious, non-judgmental questions, can help us make more meaning from life. As a result, we grasp the richness of our life experience, broaden our insight, and gain new perspectives.

Post-traumatic growth develops resilience and character strengths. For me, my experiences gave me more compassion. They let me know that I can count on people when the chips are down, that people are there for me. I have allies, friends; there are good people in my world. And more than this, I now look for ways to put people into my story actively. 

Perhaps, you’re one of them. Or maybe by reading this, you feel that my story echoes your own in some way.  I am grateful for those who are both parts of my story or stopped by to read these words, that means the world to me.

You Are in Control of Your Storyline. Your Time Is Now to Flip Your Script.


On a piece of paper, note the key events you feel have shaped your life – both negatively and positively.

1.  Record your birth on the left edge of the paper.

2.  Draw a continuous line mapping your life from the start date to the current day, mapping the peaks and troughs as above or below the line.

3.  Write a couple of words of description for each peak or trough.

4.  Here’s are few questions to think about as you get started:

  • What are the significant milestones/events in your life to date?
  • What things have you done that you’re proud of?
  • What risks did you take?
  • How did you overcome obstacles?
  • What can you learn? What about next time?
  • How can you not get hurt again?
  • What patterns can you recognise?
  • What from the past are you hanging on to? What do you need to release?

5. What peaks and troughs do you anticipate if you wish to continue your line out into the future?

Sharon Tomkins

Sharon is a New Zealand qualified Health Coach and Personal Trainer, as well as an ICF Certified Coach and Accredited Coaching Supervisor. Sharon was awarded the 'Health & Wellness Coach of the Year' 2022, by The Health Coaches Australia & New Zealand Association.
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