A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller— 5 Key Ideas and 4 Quotes

Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash

The book continues as Donald Miller finds more about stories while working on a movie based on his best-selling memoir. He applies those ideas to tell a better story with his own life.

Looking at life as a story we all are going to tell — and using the same principals that make a good fictional story to tell a better story with our life is the main idea of this book.

A story is a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.

Here are the 5 Key Ideas that I learned from reading it the first time:

The idea is similar to ‘enjoy the journey and not the destination’ but seemed more meaningful to me.

This understanding can help us continue through the journey to reach the destination — because though in most cases the only way is through, even if we were somehow transported to the destination — we won’t deserve it.

Moreover, it gives us patience to keep going when the story turns out to be longer than what we expected. We can keep going without worrying because transformation being the reward — is provided at each step and is not something that is waiting for us at the end.

And this transformation is not comfortable most of the times. Accepting that the transformation is going to be hard and outside our comfort zone is something we need to step out and continue going through the struggles. Because that’s the cost we pay for the change. And stories are all about how they change us.

This is probably the strongest idea — and something that despite being obvious was hardest to accept.

As quick exercise to verify this — try thinking about a few meaningful stories that have changed you and what triggered them. For me, every story started with me being in a situation where I just could not stay in the little safe and comfortable world I had.

And that comfortable place could be anything — something that we think is better than the unknown world out there. It could be an abusive relationship, an unhealthy lifestyle, or even a health issue we are too scared to get checked.

This is where we need an Inciting Incident.

The best part is not all inciting incidents have to be as painful as a breakup or a heartbreak. You can create these doorways of no return — you just need something that you value enough to step out of your comfort and face your fears for.

You can create these making a promise to the person you are pursuing or telling it to someone you don’t want to disappoint and who will look forward to you going through the story.

The biggest reason we stay in our uncomfortable comfort zones is because we are scared. We are scared of what would we get if we decide to give up what we have in search of what we think we deserve.

None of our story will be a clear straight line from start to end. It will be much more complex than we thought and we should be ready to accept positive and negative turns.

Realizing that there are going to be positive and negative turns — and we can’t see them coming — allows us to identify them when we finally see them. We might not be prepared to handle those, but we would know better than giving up thinking it as an end of our story.

And it’s not always fun.

Realizing that we are living in a story won’t give us all the motivation that was missing. The struggles will remain, but we’ll have a purpose and meaning to go through it.

It might sound negative or depressing thought at first.

But it’s all about lowering the expectations — or not having unrealistic expectations from events, objects, and people in our lives.

It might be surprising, but having realistic expectations make us happier — because there are more chances of them getting fulfilled than the unrealistic ones. At least this is what makes Denmark the happiest country in the world.

This doesn’t mean we stop expecting eventful moments when we achieve our goals. But we should remember that those are sub-stories and the bigger story of our life will continue and have new conflicts that we will have to overcome even after those moments.

He said, “Don, when something hard happens to you, you have two choices in how to deal with it. You can either get bitter, or better. I chose to get better. It’s made all the difference.”

I used to believe charming people were charming because they were charming, or confident people were confident because they were confident. But all this is, of course, circular. The truth is, we are all living out the character of the roles we have played in our stories.

A character is what he does.

(Not what He thinks, and not what he wants to do, and not what he wishes for, but what he does.)

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