What story plays in your mind when:
- Your plane is delayed?
- Your doctor wants to talk with you about lab results?
- You’re summoned unexpectedly to your boss’s office about a reorganization?
- Your teenager isn’t back home long after the expected time?
The stories we tell ourselves about a situation, event or person affect how well we handle that particular ‘thing’. Often, the story can be very different from the truth that unfolds. The mental and emotional energy we spend worrying about or acting on the script we write about such and such make all the difference in how productively we deal with the realities of life. The story we create about things also matters to healthy mental hygiene.
Developing the skill of examining the story we tell ourselves about a specific situation can help us determine if it is true for us or a convenient, personalized fiction.
Examining what story is really playing in our head helps us choose to keep or replace the story a more current reality – one that can improve our mental outlook, relationships and lives. My personal experience (as well as what I’ve witnessed with clients) is that when we feel stuck or find ourselves in a repeated run of bad luck and not moving forward, it’s often a result of what we’re telling ourselves about us in our situation. .
A personal example: I live in the Texas Gulf, a default location from decisions two decades old. My dream is living in the mountains. A wise coaching colleague asked me “Is your Texas story so much better than your mountains story you let go of your dreams? I had to reexamine what story I’d attached to each place and do the elements involved still matter? Is my story about Texas or the mountains more true for me now?
Upon closer examination of the facts, I had a limiting story that I was too busy and couldn’t afford the time or cost to move. The story of ‘too much cost and effort’ was fiction and held me captive for 20 years. The plan to relocate to the mountains in 18 months is in play.
In coaching my clients, those able to challenge their stories often get to write a new script that positively changes their lives.
It takes willingness to dig in and look at what story is holding them back.
In so doing, they develop new perspectives on their situations, and if they’ve enough humility and resilience to follow up, their lives and leadership gain momentum and are inspirational.
In medicine, researchers are still uncovering the power of our mental stories. It’s often called the placebo effect and how people experience and manage pain and disease. Some believe that the endorphins released affect our pain receptors successfully in some arenas of mental and physical health. Suffering can be relieved not only with our beliefs but also by our focus. Music, video games and other forms of focused attention are helping people cope without opiates.
Beyond the conscious stories we can examine and re-write, we also have stories imprinted deep in our psyche that play out in how we chose to live and relate to life.
Bruce Lipton, the American developmental biologist offers a powerful look this and how we might evolve in his epigenetic work and books The Biology of Belief and The Power of the Subconscious Mind, and Ted Talk.
Looking at the narrative in our head helps us evolve and live fuller lives.
Some of healthiest and happiest people I know are those able to re-examine and re-write the story playing in their mind and chose a new one that helps them address life head on and thrive in any circumstance.
Whether at work or in our personal lives, our stories affect our relationship with every other living thing, and on a daily basis, affects our ability to thrive. When we’re willing to see our stories, we can look at them and choose the perspective that helps us live with greater wisdom and compassion. We have much to learn about the world inside and around us, and and to truly hear our narrative requires a level of spiritual intelligence – as described by Cindy Wigglesworth.
Here’s to writing a story that brings helps us lead ourselves and others in a way that helps humanity thrive.
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