Melisa Singh: The Power of Telling Your Story

Melisa Singh: The Power of Telling Your Story


Special things happen when you begin to tell your story. We usually think of that in terms of what people might gain or understand from the story you tell. More remarkably, though, is the process of transformation that can happen to you internally when you tell your own story.

Melisa Singh understands that power, and it inspired her to create StoryShelter, a free web service that helps you tell your story through writing prompts, and then share it if you like.

We spoke to Melisa about the power of telling your story and about her own habits as a busy startup founder and CEO.

Could you tell us a little bit about StoryShelter?

StoryShelter.com is the social space to share life’s stories online.

Each human life represents a rich collection of personal experiences. But with few exceptions, you know nothing of the compelling life stories of others and they know nothing of yours. StoryShelter is here to change that.

StoryShelter is an exchange of life stories. StoryShelter prompts make it easy to share your experiences simply by answering thought-provoking questions. The more questions you answer, the more your life-story grows. You can share each story publicly, anonymously or with a group of your choosing. You can also share your “gratitudes” each day—a habit scientifically proven to increase health and happiness.

In addition, you can read a wealth of stories from real people you find interesting. The search filters make it easy to find stories by people from different walks of life, stories written about topics relevant to you or stories that fit different moods. Reading about other’s experiences will help provide interesting insight and often make you reflect on your own life.

Our goal at StoryShelter is to shelter the world’s stories from the ravishes of time and elevate the value of our life experiences by sharing them with others.

Why should people develop a habit of writing the story of their life? How does it benefit them?

There are many reasons why writing down your life experiences daily is beneficial. These are three of the many benefits our users say keep them coming back:

  • Reason 1: To Learn More About Yourself
    It isn’t too often that someone asks you a real question about your life. Not “What’s Up?” or a half-meant “How Are You?”—but a real question about what you think, how you made an important decision, or what really matters to you. One that takes time and thought to answer. Getting these stories out of your head and onto the page lets you look at your life in a different way. You can step back and get a more objective view of yourself when you look at your responses. Your stories aren’t just things that you like or thought were cool at one point, they’re what make up the core of your life.

  • Reason 2: To Find Out What’s Really Important To You
    Once you’ve answered a group of questions, you’ll start to notice patterns in what you talk about. Do you keep coming back to your family? Your romantic relationships? Your career? Do you have a pretty good balance of topics in your stories? Checking out what you repeatedly talk about is a good way to see how you’re spending your literal time and your mental energy. Maybe you’ll realize that you need to make some effort to connect with your siblings or maybe you’ll see that you’re career-driven at the expense of loving life. There are many revelations to be discovered.

  • Reason 3: To Unwind From Your Week
    For some people, writing is like therapy. StoryShelter offers an online space where you can take the time to be deliberate and write your stories with care. Unlike other social media sites,it’s not about how much information you can take in (a million status updates and 1,000 photos…), but how deep you go with both the stories you write and the stories you read. It’s a slower, more meaningful, way to engage online. Plus, you can filter to see what the funniest and most heartwarming stories are. So if you need a laugh or an “Aww” moment—StoryShelter’s got you covered!

We’ve created a plan especially for Coach.me users to help them cultivate a daily writing practice on StoryShelter: Write My Life Story.

What’s your own daily routine like? What habits do you cultivate and what benefits do you find in them?

I find a great deal of personal satisfaction when I am able to be diligent with my habits—especially the ones that don’t come easily. During the week my morning routine includes eating a healthy breakfast, reading the paper, using Lumosity and working out before I get to the office. When I manage to get these things done I find I get in a positive “groove” where I am more optimistic about my ability to succeed an”d more productive throughout the rest of the day.

I am a perfectionist by nature so, for me, it’s often hard to want to keep going once I have failed. In school as a child I would often get A’s on every paper in the beginning of the school year and then as soon as I got my first “B”, I would give up and just skate by, since I lost my perfect streak. I’ve come to the realization that “perfect is the enemy of good” and that making progress, even if it is not always at the pace I’d like, is far better than throwing in the towel. That is one of the things that I love about using Coach.me. Even if I’ve only tackled 5 of my 10 goals for the day, I’m still making progress. That keeps me going, understanding that I have to just take one day at a time.

Are there any habits you’re trying to develop now? What motivated you to work on them?

One of the habits I’ve developed (and am still working on) is waking up at 6:00am each morning. I read that this is the ideal time to wake in order to be productive—and also good for your health. One night I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t get back to sleep. At 5am I decided to just start my day. As I peered outside my window to see (relatively) quiet New York City streets below my window, I felt at peace. I watched the sun come up as I was eating my breakfast having already done my morning routine. There was a great serenity and sense of accomplishment that came from being up so early that morning that I decided to make it my mission to become a morning person. I’m not entirely there yet but I wake up close to 6am most days and actually miss it when I wake up too late to enjoy the sunrise.

Can you tell us a little bit about how you organize and prioritize your work during the day?

I like to have things organized. This includes my desk, my inbox and my to-do list. Before starting in on any ongoing tasks, I tackle my inbox. When doing this, I try to follow the advice of Steven Covey and “put first things first” by getting the most pressing items out of the way first. I archive all messages that don’t need further attention so that there are only a handful of emails in my inbox at any given time, reminding me of what still needs to be handled. When it comes to tasks I do on a daily basis, I try to use the Pomodoro technique. This is basically giving yourself 20 minutes to do as much of one particular task as you can. Then you take a break and return for another 20 minutes of that task or another on your list. This helps large tasks seem more manageable and prevents me from dabbling on too many things at once. I don’t always follow this technique by the book, but since I’ve started working this way I notice a definite increase in my productivity.

How has using a co-working space affected your productivity? Do you have any tips on how to get the most out of a co-working space?

Using a co-working space is one of the best things I could have done to increase my productivity. Being around other people who are striving towards similar goals helps you stay motivated and on target. When I first started StoryShelter, I was working out of my apartment and it was far too easy to get distracted (and go to the refrigerator). The co-working space, WeWork, is great for a number of reasons. Not only is it a great place to work that prevents the alienation that many self-employed feel, but it offers a great number of discounts, learning and networking opportunities. To get the most out of your space, check their site on a regular basis and make a commitment to use one benefit or go to one event per week. You’ll thank yourself!

You’ve said that the epiphany that inspired the creations of StoryShelter happened during a bike ride. What activities do you turn to when you need to recharge or refresh your creativity?

Bike riding is still one of those things I like to do to clear my head and think creatively. I also have the travel bug and try to get away as much as possible to get a fresh perspective. I find that no matter where I go, from a week in Thailand or a weekend trip to Massachusetts to visit my parents, experiencing a different “home” for a period of time shakes up my mindset and often provides bursts of inspirational “ah ha” moments. Some of my best ideas have come from being in transit in some form. It seems to work wonders for my imagination.

Who or what inspires you? Who’s habits would you like to know more about?

I’m so inspired by the people I meet who are positive and love life, despite the adversity they’ve had to face along the way. I am always impressed when I meet these people, whether they are users of StoryShelter, cabbies sharing interesting stories or people I meet in my travels. Their stories inspire me and remind me that no matter what I have going on in my life, I can choose how I react to everything that comes my way. I’d love to know more about the habits of my favorite female role-models who are successful and yet seem to have an amazing work-life balance, like Ellen DeGeneres.

Coach.me provides everything you need to improve performance in diet, fitness, productivity, and life. Feeling inspired by Singh’s habits? Try adding these to your Lift Dashboard today!

  • Write My Life Story: a plan to get you started with a daily writing exercise from StoryShelter.

  • Wake up Early: get a jump on your day so you have time to build your other good habits.

  • Play Lumosity: join others in tracking their habit in using Lumosity‘s daily brain-building mental exercises.