A Simple Habit That Brings Me Clarity and Peace


Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Allison Fallon, author of Write Your Story.

Most of us want to live a simpler, more intentional life. But in a world with “can’t-miss” meetings and emails, pings and dings from messages and DMs, school pick-ups and drop-offs, holiday hoo-ras and birthdays, tornado warnings and twenty four hour news cycles, it can be challenging to narrow in on what can stay and what has to go.

There’s a simple habit I have been using for years that helps me take the chaotic and overwhelming amount of information that comes into my experience on any given day and whittle it down to what really matters. 

That tool is this: writing about my life.

It started as journaling. 

Data shows that journaling for as little as twenty minutes a day for four days in a row can improve your mental, emotional and even physical health. But for me, journaling wasn’t as much about improving my health as it was about uncovering an ability to hear myself think in a wild, loud, static-y world.

Sometimes I would see my words on the page and think to myself: oh, that’s how I feel about my two year old’s new habit of hitting his sister. I didn’t realize.

But in the past several years, I’ve taken my writing practice beyond a daily habit of journaling and discovered that turning my experiences into stories brings a new kind of clarity and calm to my life that is grounding and peaceful.

Sometimes, at dinner, my husband and I will say to our two kids: “tell us a story of something that made you smile today (or cry, or laugh, or pee your pants).”

They are two-and-a-half and three-and-a-half so they mostly stare at us blankly for now—but one day I hope they will appreciate the kind of connection and healing that comes from sitting around a table with those you love and sharing stories of the things that matter most to you. 

That gesture that made you smile. 

That comment that broke your heart.

The starting place of your passion for bumble bees.

The day your daughter was born into an ice storm.

How, on the day your dad left, you remember seeing his blue Sportsman suitcase with a red tassel sitting by the door. 

These are the stories that make up who we are. And most of us aren’t telling them.

Storytelling is powerful because it has the ability to cut through the noise and show us what really matters.

I’ve witnessed this to be true in my writing practice; and I’ve discovered it to be true for the thousands I’ve helped as a ghostwriter and a book coach. My job requires me to listen deeply to the stories of others, to pick out what matters most, and to tell the story in a way that is gripping to a reader, no matter the details. 

This role has taught me that all stories are interesting, if we know how to tell them.

When you write your story, you are forced to make decisions about what’s important to the story and what’s not. You must decide what is an absolutely indispensable detail and what’s just adding to the noise. You inevitably narrow in on what the story is actually about

Do you know what your story is about

The story of your illness… 

The story of losing your mother…

The story of being falsely accused…

The story of your divorce…

The story of growing a business from next to nothing…

What is that story really about?  

Writing your story can be healing and gratifying. And yet most of us aren’t doing it—not because we don’t believe in the power of storytelling—but because the task feels overwhelming. Which is why I wrote my new book Write Your Story, to make the process an absolutely easy and enjoyable process for anyone who wants to do it.  

Here’s a simple prompt that can get you started: 

What have you overcome and how has it changed you? 

As you answer this prompt, notice how much clarity rains down. In a story there aren’t many paths, there is only one. One obstacle, one resolution, one central theme the story follows. Life isn’t always this simple, but storytelling is. And when we submit the events of our lives to a tool like storytelling, our life tends to feel clearer too. 

It isn’t everything. But it is something. And sometimes that small something is all we need. 


Allison Fallon is an author of Write Your Story (available now) and founder of Find Your Voice, a community that supports anyone who wants to write anything. She is also the author of one of my favorite books on simplicity, Packing Light, and a long-time contributor to this blog (first appearing in 2014). For help writing your story, she comes recommended by me.

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