Matthew Dicks and the magic of Homework for Life

“Homework for Life is a strategy that I originally began using to generate more story topics for the stage, but as I began to use the strategy daily, it changed my life. It made everything about my life so much more vivid and slowed my life down remarkably. It’s a strategy I teach to my storytelling classes often, and I’ve had people tell me that it has replaced therapy and meditation for them. It truly changes lives. Powerful.” Matthew Dicks.

Matthew Dicks is a storytelling champion. He’s won the USA’s Moth StorySLAM storytelling competition 19 times and the GrandSLAM 3 times. He teaches storytelling and public speaking around the world. While Matthew’s life has been difficult in many ways, storytelling has enriched his life beyond imagining.

Can you do the same for your own life, using the small stories you experience every day to enrich and change the way you feel about your life? According to Matthew, there is a way that anyone can access if they are willing and make it a habit. You might like to hear Matthew explain all about it in his video below.

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How to stop missing the moments that change our lives

In the early days, as a man with an unusually dramatic life story, Matthew assumed he’d have a load of really great stories to tell, big stories where dramatic, life-changing things happened. But as it turned out, the stories Matthew had assumed would be the best in the telling were in fact not so good. The big stories full of drama were hard for people to empathise with, while the smaller narratives were much closer to most people’s hearts.

Worried that he might run out of stories, Matthew decided to consciously hunt a bunch down. And he discovered something wonderful. Most of the time big thinking is required to bring about change. We’re not often asked to think small. But small can be beautiful, powerful, and even transformative.

It’s all about thinking small

Vital moments are everywhere in our lives but because they’re small, we often miss them. And when we do see them, we don’t always recognise them for what they are. We need to be conscious of them.

Matthew decided to make his story-generating task into a homework assignment, spending five minutes at the end of every day jotting down the bare basics of the best moment from that day. A sentence or two, or a collection of words, just so it meant something to him. Beginning as a voyage into the unknown, his project quickly turned into magic.

Matthew discovered it’s the small stories, the less dramatic and less obviously important tales that carry the power. When it’s something simple, something close to your heart, everyone can relate to it. These moments, these small stories, connect us to ourselves and in their telling they connect us to others. Apply this to your life and you’ll develop a storytelling lens that is sharp and clear.

Collecting stories from your days helps you realise life is full of stories – your heart moves, you discover something new, you connect with someone, your position changes, there’s beauty and importance in your life like you never imagined.

And collecting them means these precious moments never slip away. You own them for the rest of your life. Matthew never loses a day. Stories well up from his childhood, forgotten memories come rushing back, these small stories interweave with each other and every single one is rich in meaning.

All this can happen simply because you’ve decided to ask yourself “What’s my five-minute story for today?” Collecting stories enriches your life, whether you jot them down in a notebook or a spreadsheet. This is your Homework for Life and it easily creates new meaning. Every day is different from the last. Nobody’s days are meaningless, nobody’s days are the same, everybody is important.

There’s another brilliant secret to giving this new habit to yourself. It slows life down. Examining your days like this for five minutes a day, seeking the day’s message or messages, makes time go slower. Days creep by. You’ll never lose another day to the spread of time. All those critical small happenings are there for you. You can always go back to that precious moment. It can be a gift.

A matter of commitment and time

Matthew says it takes time. You need to have commitment to that five minute space at the end of every day when you reflect upon and discover the meaning in it, no matter how seemingly small and insignificant. Over time you’ll become fluent in seeing the moment, as you’re sharpening and refining your skills. Be committed and open, and you will eventually see these moments. Reach out, capture them, collect them, and those moments will be safely held in your memory.

We are all wired to make meaning through stories and so Matthew’s approach can offer a natural, direct and practical way to enrich our lives.