Your life is shaped and influenced by the people that you live with, work with, and hang out with. People are definitely the single biggest source of influence in each other’s lives. If you think of your life as a story, the people in your life are the characters in the story. Just like you can learn from characters in any good novel, you can learn many things from the characters in your own story.
I met a woman once that kept a journal specifically about things she was learning from the people, or characters, in her life. She had just spent a summer backpacking in Europe and the pages of her journal were filled with biographies of the charcters that she met that summer. Some were more influential than others, of course, but she was intentional about learning from even characters that showed up in her story for just a few minutes. I was so impressed by her commitment to learning from living and I was inspired to create a similar journal just for the characters in my own life.
Since starting my own characters journal, I have learned more from people than I ever thought possible. I began the journal by listing the main characters that were frequently a part of my days. These included my family members, closest friends, and co-workers that I interacted with often. I wanted to make this list of main characters because sometimes the people we are closest to are the hardest ones to be intentional about learning from. By having a list in the front of my journal I was reminded of them often.
My journey of learning from the characters in my life has been simple and yet profound. I take a few minutes at the end of each day to record things I have observed or learned from others. Sometimes I see characteristics in other characters that I want to make a part of my own character. Other times I see things in people that I want to warn myself against ever becoming. Whatever the case, I am careful to observe the world around me for anything I might learn about living better. For example, a few months ago I met a woman that had the loveliest ability to tell engaging stories. I recorded her talent in my characters journal that night with a special note that I want to learn how to tell stories better. One day my father told me a story about his childhood. My characters journal that night told of a newfound respect I had gained for my father by learning more about his life. Some of the best lessons of my life have come from the main characters in my life. I would never have learned or remembered many of these lessons without keeping track of them in a characters journal.
Consider starting a journal of the characters that are a part of your story. You’ll be glad you did.