Who would I be without my story?

“You are what exists before all stories. You are what remains when the story is understood.”
Byron Katie, American speaker & author of “The Work”

I muse about this Coaching question asked me.

So what is my story? As I think of this, I see its tentacles going into the past.

The year is 1911. A lowly placed accounts clerk of the British Accounts Service in India boards the Kalka Mail train from Calcutta with his family. He is shifting home to Delhi in accordance with the British colonial Government’s decision to shift the administrative capital of the Indian subcontinent there. He is following his work, the only thing he knows that sustains him and his family. He is my grandfather.


Fast forward fifty years and it is my father in the midst of a career in the Indian Audit and Accounts service. Now settled in Delhi, the capital of independent India. Content with a middle class lifestyle. So grooved in his office work that he feels insecure to take up an exciting consular opportunity in the US. He regrets it citing family constraints.

Fast forward another fifty years and it is I sitting at the desk in my office wondering what next. Having been on a sometimes exciting, sometimes lacklustre roller coaster ride through diverse business areas for three decades, I can claim fair knowledge of the nuts and bolts of corporate working. But like my grandfather and father, I see my work primarily as the means to provide a comfortable life to me and my family.

My story. The story in which working at an office desk equates to life comfort and sustenance. The story which I accept as me. And as I accept, I see it gaining power and dictating what I do. I see it protecting me in a ‘safe box’. As it allows me to peep through my perception coloured lenses and read meaning about the world at large. But as it protects, do I also see it confining and preventing me from setting forth, taking risks and achieving my true potential?

What is it that has embedded this ‘office work’ DNA in me thus? What is it that has made it such an integral part of my story? As I muse, I sense that in my office work DNA resides a gene harking back to the industrial revolution. A gene that through generations has altered my value system. And made me shift towards valuing business growth, productivity and profits over beauty, compassion, love and community ties. Over generations, the gene has also lured me away from simplicity and frugality and towards materialism. An attachment to materialistic possessions which has fuelled insecurity. And has manifested in my life through frantic work schedules, technology tying me down 24X7, scarcely any time to “stop by the woods” or “wander lonely as a cloud”.

So, who would I be without my story? Who would I be if I could shed the above DNA and gene? Would I have that glorious opportunity to start from a place where I am no longer confined and am free to define and implement what I think is important? What do I see?

I see myself slowing down, without the pressures of societal expectations of wealth and ownership. As I take personal responsibility to do that which is meaningful, creative and liberating to me.

I see myself effortlessly crossing those artificial barriers created by economic, social and racial compulsions.

I see in me the birth of a great willingness to learn. From all corners of the world. Unfettered and unhampered by beliefs of my education and experience.

Like the return of the Jedi, I see in me the comeback of the human heart. As I acknowledge intrinsic qualities like Empathy, Faith, Creativity and Interconnectedness and bring them centre stage.

I see how work would look like for me. Passion…. Art…… the pulse of the environment.


Who would I be without my stories?
Like a tree
Without the rustle of the leaves
Winter mind
To the Inside
Inside the inside
A space so wide
It has no centre
Because it is centre

From Caitlin Frost’s Web log

In learning………………… Shakti Ghosal

Author: Shakti Ghosal

* A PCC Credentialed Leadership Coach. * A qualified engineer and a PGDM (Faculty Gold medalist) from IIM Bangalore. * More than three decades of industry experience spanning Engineering, Maintenance, Projects, Consumer durables, Supply Chains, Aviation and Tourism in the Gulf region and India. * Top level management positions to drive business development, strategy, alliances all around the globe. * A visiting faculty at the IIMs. *A passion to envision trends & disseminate Leadership incubation globally. * www.linkedin.com/in/Shaktighosal. shakti.ghosal@gmail.com . +91 - 9051787576

84 thoughts on “Who would I be without my story?”

  1. An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a friend who had been doing a little homework on this.
    And he actually bought me lunch because I discovered it for him…
    lol. So let me reword this…. Thanks for the meal!!
    But yeah, thanks for spending some time to talk about this topic here on your
    internet site.

    1. Happy to oblige 🙂

      I am delighted your friend found the post relevant. Should he need any further support, you may ask him to get in touch with me.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment, I appreciate.


  2. Who am I without my story?
    I am but a thought. I am an idea of which God loves. I am happiness and unique particles. I am me but nothing else. I am a seed of potential. I am the blank page before the story.
    I don’t see my story from the generations before me. But then again I am a byproduct of the people who birthed me. I take after my mom and my dad. So if they were not who they were, I would not be who I am.

    1. Hi,

      What you say is wonderful. What I am hearing from you is your intention to be in the space of possibility without any baggage from the past. What I also hear is for you to exist in a space of loving ideas and happiness.

      As you muse some more, do you see a dichotomy between your not perceiving yourself as part of your generational story and the fact that you are who you are only because your parents were who they were.

      I wish you all the best in this journey of yours.

      Thank you for taking the time to visit and comment here.


  3. I loved reading this post. I have often wondered “Who am I without my story” and I am but a soul. The story I am living is my lesson for this life with its root in many lives. As I experience the story and gain wisdom, the roots will break away and I will progress to myself without a story. A few weeks ago, you asked me how my life is a vacation which finally pushed me to write about my perspective and what I did and am doing !!

    1. Dear Sangeeta,

      Loved the wisdom of your comment.To progress from a rooted to a rootless state is indeed profound and a true consciousness expander.

      And I loved the perspective in your link even more. That is a double whammy!

      So thank you for taking the time to visit and comment here. I appreciate.


    1. That is a great comment. I love that outcome of, “to cross the barriers set by perceptions and understand everyone with compassion!” Yes, letting go of our mask exposes us in all our vulnerability and leads us into the space of compassion.

      I appreciate your presence here.


  4. Retirement is the second chance. The chance for completion, as C.G. Jung describes. To round out all four quarters of a person, to fulfill now what you had to omit yesterday.
    If you seek to use it that way —
    Meanwhile, enjoy your busy active office and family life now to its fullest!

    1. Do we really need to wait for specific events like retirement etc. to improve awareness of our own selves? But I do see your point about gaining the freedom to do so post retirement.

      Thank you for taking the time here to comment.


  5. Interesting thoughts shared here. I hope that you find the peace you are looking for. Have a wonderful weekend. Regards, Mary

    1. Hi Mary,

      I suppose peace comes from the way we see things and situations around us. Today, I remain fairly rooted to my “here and now” and That brings in a great aspect of peace.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment here, I appreciate you.


  6. Hi there I have nominated you for “Shine On Award….”

    Please find the information on the below link if you choose to accept the award nomination.


    Hope to continue reading brilliant stuffs from you as always.

    Shivani Panchmatia

    1. Dear Mary,

      That is a great perspective. If we were to live our lives keeping two questions in mind viz. ” Who are our coming generations to us?” and ‘Who are we to our coming generations?”, I believe we would have left the right legacy. What do you think?


  7. Thank you Shakti for a very thoughtful post-I always amazed at how much our own stories continue to carry with them stories of parents, grandparents-which manifest in dreams lost and, dreams found. I look forward to reading more of your work and thoughts-
    Thank you too so much for stopping by Little Dogs Laughed and taking the time to look-Jack Henry and I appreciate it!

    1. Yes, we remain the crucible and the carrier of so many stories from our past. Do we then show show up as someone carrying the burden of these stories or as someone conscious of but free of these stories? If we choose the latter, what do we need to do to create do hold such consciousness?

      I too appreciate your presence here. Thank you for your comment.


  8. Each of us may have a different story.. But each Story is personal to ourselves.. without which our pages within would not be written .. For within each chapter we learn and grow as we gather unto ourselves more knowledge of who we are or whom we wish to be..

    Would I have changed my Story…… I think not…… Each of us I think Shakti are words within the Worlds Story Book Each one of us whether Rich or Poor, we all contribute to the whole each one set within their paragraph and location within the Living Library called Earth.. … For without the poor, when would we know we were rich… Without Pain and Sorrow, when would we know Joy and Happiness…

    Looking back upon our Stories can give us hindsight into the type of Being we wish to aspire towards…. Being more Caring, Forgiving, Compassionate.. But do we not learn these lessons within the covers of our own books… At least we are given the challenges, chances and experiences to alter and change the story and thus create the ending of whom we wish to be as we close the book on our lives which for many fear with dread with the words The END as it being the final chapter!… But both you and I know different…

    …. The End is only the Beginning of the Next Great Chapter of our lives as we transform to begin the next phase based upon that which we learned within our Earth’s School of learning!..

    The Next Story I await like a traveller packing her suitcase with that which I have learned.. We take not the material things with us.. Only that which we hold within our Hearts…

    Thank you dear friend for this Glimpse into your world….
    And thank you for taking the time to visit.. 🙂
    With Gratitude ~ Sue

    1. Sue,

      That is a lovely and thoughtful comment ( as always).

      Would we have changed our story, if we could have? I suppose some of us may say yes and justify their answer by bringing in the perspective of improving the ‘what is’.For others like you, they may choose not to and say that their stories have contributed to the big picture of ‘what is’.There is much to be said of either view. To me the aspect of my story that resonates is that of holding consciousness and acceptance of ‘who I am’. This allows for great peace which in turn supports qualities of Caring, Forgiveness and Compassion within me.

      I loved your vision of ‘our next story’ and how we need to “take not the material things with us.. Only that which we hold within our Hearts……

      Once again thank you for your presence her, I appreciate you Sue.


  9. Beautiful write up Shakti. I always learn good soulful things from your writings. It is as if they do have a magical impact and I put on my thinking cap and start to ponder on things I have never considered before. Thanks for evoking such a feeling by your lovely writing. Take care.

    1. Dear Samina,

      Thank you. Your kind words remain a great source of encouragement.

      As you ponder on “things not considered before” what possibilities open up for you?



  10. I see you as a wonderful uniqueness sharing itself with the world. How lucky for us! Thanks for popping by my blog and leading me back to yours! I’m already looking forward to reading more from you! Take good care of your precious self! xoJulia

    1. Oh Julia!

      You have put me on a pedestal which I doubt if I deserve. Thank you nonetheless for your kind words. You have brought the proverbial shine in my eyes and spring in my gait:)

      I appreciate you!


  11. Shakti, I have spent the last quarter decade searching for what I would be without my story. Have sought beyond, between and through the personality to discover what I truly am. What we all truly are. Some days it’s absolutely clear, undividable. Then it gets murky again as the thoughts and beliefs and personality and stories take over. I work at a desk, also, although only in a part-time capacity. What I am can never be confined by this desk job but it also loves it unconditionally. Thank you for such a beautiful post. Blessings!

    1. Hi Kathy,

      As you searched for yourself, what did you really ‘see’ , shorn of, as you say, all thoughts , beliefs and personality? As you saw and got to know of this “pure, essential” YOU. what possibilities opened up for you?

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment.



      1. What opened up is *this moment*, a centered feeling, a feeling of freedom. However, I do not yet abide in this realization. It appears to come and go, even though it’s impossible for “this” to come and go as it’s eternal… You are welcome and thank YOU for your thoughtful reply.

  12. Beautiful piece Shakti! Love this ” As I take personal responsibility to do that which is meaningful, creative and liberating to me. I can feel it.

  13. We are our story – we will not be us, without what made us, without what we felt, what we thought.

    Nice write up – thought provoking 🙂

    1. Yes Amira, we are indeed our story. And with every passing moment, we become more so.

      But what if…… What if we could peel away that story? Who could we become then? That is what I attempted to find out….

      Thank you for your comment, I truly appreciate.


  14. I feel you are misplaced in an office, which is exactly how I feel. Exactly.

    My grandmother was born in 1910 (rip)! Love how you forwarded 50 years, & forwarded 50 years.

    Interesting piece. I felt it much.

  15. That was beautifully and thoughtfully scripted. You must be finding an echo in a thousand hearts.

    V. Narayanan

  16. Shakti’da…Excellent write-up…I must admit that I went thro that phase -materialistic and non-materialistic – a lot of time…as always tried to find solution between materialistic and non-materialistic life…I found that both r required…when I returned from US to Kol I thought I will take off for 6 months…I enjoyed 1st two months a lot after having lived for 17 yrs in US. But after the 3rd month u start itching…the reason is ur heart wants to relax and discover urself, but after living for so many yrs in a world of rat-race…u cannot control the inertia. So, within 3-4 months I am back to work. My answer is simple “optimization”…do not work too hard and always find time to enjoy and discover urself…Balance is the key…as a Bengali…there is no other place u can njoy to ur heart content than to stay in Kolkata…and above all in SC…so its time for u to return… time to listen to ur heart Ciao

    Dr. Indra Mitra
    ( South City FaceBook Group)

    1. Indra N. Mitra, thank you for your kind acknowledgement. You have brought in this perspective of the intrinsic polarity between the Materialistic and the non-materialistic that exists in our lives. I liked the musing of your own experience. What you term as optimisation is to me the point each one of us chooses on the “Materialistic- Non materialistic” continuum. As we go through life, situations and events sometimes throws up this awareness about where we lie and a hankering to shift.

      Shakti Ghosal

  17. Tilak Ghoshal Shakti – you speak for all of us [most, at any rate] – and you speak beautifully – as always……..This is the same question that I have struggled with since God knows when!…..I have considered this identity crisis long and hard, but the ‘eureka’ moment still eludes me……….However, I am slowly getting a sense of the nucleus around which my life revolves endlessly – my ego – the careful nurturing of my ’image’ and the agonising effort at not failing anyone – ever!………..Yet, paradoxically, this ‘ego’ is nurtured by a strange ‘self-sacrificing’ trait!!…..I am often amazed at how much I ‘live for others’ – not in the conventional compassionate/benevolent/philanthropic sense – but as one battling every single moment to meet expectations of everyone else…….family, friends, colleagues, neighbours…….the society at large…….To be seen as an ‘ideal’ son/husband/father/brother/neighbour, to be liked by all colleagues, to be admired as a boss, to be an ‘asset’ to the organisation, to be the ‘life’ of the parties, to convince others I really care, to reassure them ‘I am with you’’……..the endless list and the accompanying struggle goes on!……… Am I suggesting theses ‘noble acts’ are to be cast aside? Hell, NO………..All I say is, I need to find the right balance…..an equilibrium where I do not have to strangulate that feeble voice from deep within, that is ever yearning for something meaningful for true fulfilment………..And since it’s not easy to be ‘Sthitaprajnya’, I keep riding the tiger with that deep sense of ‘inadequacy’ and the distant hope that someday it will die of exhaustion and I will finally be able to dismount and roam free………..But then, who will outlive the other is the moot point!

    Tilak Ghoshal
    ( South City FaceBook Group)

    1. Tilak Ghoshal Dada, reading your comment always makes me wonder whether my post is a kind of a final cathartic outcome of my musing or merely a catalyst for a much bigger outcome. You end up adding so much value and enriching the whole discussions around any post. Thank you so much, I appreciate you.What truly resonates for me is the way you have connected the ego and this ” self sacrificing trait” as you call it. What is it really that compel us to try and be all things to all folks as you have said? What is at the core of this need? What compels us to remain embarrassed and hide our inner core? But as we do this are we not living in fraud? Does that serve?…… so many more paths of enquiry you have opened up!


      1. Yes, indeed, Shakti – it’s the latter – the ‘catalyst’……… Reading such pieces, invariably draws me out and releases a torrent of dormant thoughts…….and it’s cathartic for me, yes…… Therefore, oftentimes, my responses to such ‘provocative’ pieces takes off in seemingly unrelated directions……….The ‘catalyst’ in this particular case was your envisioning a future of ‘slowing down’ and of being ‘liberated’…….. And that opened up that raw wound deep within – of my own failure at crossing that personal Rubicon, after having wistfully envisioned it for years….. That set off the chain of thoughts on all the reasons – of what stopped me from crossing over….That’s when I felt I was riding a tiger – unable to get off and all that nonsense……. That’s the connection to your piece….

        Tilak Ghoshal

      2. Tilak Ghoshal Dada. Loved your thought. Is it not a great aspect of our minds which allow us to connect dots from seemingly disparate stuff and then envison a possibility? Could it be that what you term as a “opening of a raw wound” is but your rendezvous with that space where your passion and energy reside? My post too was just that……


  18. This is beautiful, Shakti, and speaks for all of us who have done the “honorable” things, the things our parents did before us, the things that set themselves before us as expedient to make a living, the good and the not so good, without sufficient exploration before hand (we didn’t even know the questions to ask!) … but it’s not too late to ask the questions nor too late to be true.

    Your writing on your blog shows that you have always investigated the big questions, the beauty in art and nature, and the inner beauties of the human condition, not always bad thing, eh? How to revision oneself? It’s starts with the question you asked here. It began for me with a death sentence and then living – so far – thirteen years, eleven passed my medically predicted experation date. So what have I learn in thirteen years: that I am still learning. That’s the magic and the mystery of this great adventure: Life. As you say “in learning.” Inspired.

    May we reblog this on “Bardo.” I will check here for your response.

    Warmest regards and thank you for your honest and inspiring sharing of self,

    1. Dear Jamie,

      At the outset, thank you for your presence and kind comment. I truly appreciate. Having been part of “Into the Bardo” for a while, I can only say that it would be an honour for me to have you re-blog this post there. In fact, as and when you choose to reblog my posts, you may do so without asking.

      What particularly jumps out at me from your comment is “How do we revision ourselves?” Yes, holding that consciousness somewhere above our meandering thoughts, without judgement, just noting the flows remains a powerful way to do that. I remain curious to hear more from you about the transformative moment in your life you have alluded to.

      Thank you again for your encouragement and God bless.


  19. Yes! I, too, reflected on this in my post Storylines. It’s important, I think, not to get too attached to “our stories,” for they confine and eventually imprison us. As much as is possible, living while open to all the possibilities of the moment is a marvelous way to move through this all too short life. Cheers, Shakti.

    1. Hi Bela,

      Lovely seeing you here and the comment. Yes, it is indeed important to retain the consciousness of not getting attached to ” our stories”. But remaining conscious can only support us part of the way. As Liz has said in her comment above, we are the sum of our past. Our stories remain embedded in our DNAs, are intrinsic to who we are. So I guess it is very difficult, maybe impossible to detach ourselves.



  20. Shakti, I see a yearning to be that free spirit in you and yet the same fear that binds so many of us to our golden cages for fear of being rudderless. Most middle class Indian educated families have similar stories – granddad was school principal in a British school far from his place of birth, father was a Fulbright scholar from Chicago Univ. who spent his life teaching in a small town in backward MP instead of the more lucrative options he had abroad and in India. I made the break from the corporate chains 17 years ago with 10+ years of large MNC ‘cubicle-dom’. Did I make the right choice ? Who is to say but there is no looking back for me. Cheers, Rex

    1. Hi Rex,

      Great to see you here and your comment.

      I appreciate what you are saying but my question is ‘What makes us equate our fear of leaving our known and familiar turf to becoming rudderless?’ What could we do to shift our perspective to equate the Unknown with empowering possibilities for ourselves?

      As you have rightly concluded, there is no looking back.



  21. brilliant write up Shaktida. As usual.. I connected with your thoughts and this write up of yours made me find some solace,honestly speaking.I hv chosen the ‘lesser chosen’ path..It made a wonderful reading ..thanks for sharing ur thinkings here.
    B Rgds:

    1. Hi Babs,

      Loved seeing you visit here, thank you.Reading your comment and knowing that my post supported you made me feel immensely acknowledged. So thank you!

      With blessings

      Shakti Ghosal

  22. Just as I thought! Another plunge into the inner recesses of my mind. Thanks Shakti. Loved it and when I leave here I am off to my office to write down about my gene pool and where it came from. I do not have the working gene at all. My genes are sown directly from the ‘free spirit’ bird…My wings don’t show but they are there always fluttering and my gray cells are always searching for new information and wonderment. I could not be without these genes for anything else would seem like prison walls to me and I would suffocate from lack of fresh air and new ideas. Thanks for activating my gray cells once again. It is always a pleasure. Wishing you much peace and love. Happy weekend….VK

    1. Hi VK,

      It is always such a pleasure to see you here and read your so very astute comments. Thank you.

      So as you hold this consciousness of being a “free spirit”, what possibilities do you see? How could you align your work and life with this gene? I would love to hear more about this from you.

      Thank you for your kind appreciation of the post, VK. If it has supported you to ‘activate your gray cells’ as you say, I feel delighted.



  23. We are all standing on our fathers’ and mothers’ shoulders. What we accomplish is because of them, the sacrifices that they made for us. Very perceptive, Shakti.

    Two generations ago, my grammy was a custodian at the government buildings in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. One generation later, my mother was a private secretary at that same complex. Then, I went on to college. I started out as a writer/journalist and later became a teacher. I could not have accomplished this without the groundwork laid by previous generations.

    1. Hello Judy,

      Yes, we are indeed standing on the shoulders of our earlier generations though we tend to forget this quite often and perceive our life paths as something owned and created by us alone.I wonder what is it that frequently makes us so self-centered. Could this be a mode of self preservation? Or is it a need to self-aggrandise?

      I loved your musing about your Granny and Mom. To see you hold such consciousness only vindicates my post.

      Thank you for your presence and commenting here Judy, I appreciate you.


  24. This is a thoughtful reflection focused on your work life defining you as a whole. There is not one of us who works as a means of caring for those we love who doesn’t feel that work to restrain the creative soul inside. But to me, you don’t have to imagine this other you. What you describe is already there inside you and part of you. Parts of the whole. Someday, the “cage-like” view of work will end – the cage will disappear and you will be free to explore that delightful artist that is there in each of your posts.

    1. Hi SD,

      As always you have brought in a very sharp and wonderous perspective to my post. This aspect of being parts of a whole. Whiich would imply that one does not necessarily have to shed one’s DNA to move on a fresh path. Sounds alluring but do you think it would be easy? Would this not require one to be adept at multi-tracking? Possible to do I suppose but would it not dilute the singularity of purpose and focus?

      While immensely appreciating your comment, I look to your further views on the matter.


      1. Shakti, you understand that you are more than the sum of your parts. You are the sum of the parts of many. This is a bit like the phrase: “we are all one.” For me that is what this piece said to me.

      2. You are so right, Liz. Each one of us remain the sum of so many parts from our past, our heredity, our genes…. and then some more. That some more is our own life experiences and perceptions we bring in.

        I love the way you have expressed it viz. “we are all one.” Does this not brook further questions and open up other possibilities? Some of it going into the realms of philosophy and meta physics?

        Thank you for this very perceptive comment, I appreciate.


      3. Shakti, thank you. In reality it is your words that showed me my own. We here upon earth are meant to “love one another” this is one step there. I had another lovely experience with a gentleman from across the oceans this AM. It too was a recognition of friendship and thus the importance of recognizing that friendship and what it can mean for world peace. Sending you hugs across the Internet waves. Liz

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