One simple (yet challenging) shift I try to help my clients made: recognizing the stories they’re telling themselves. Why does this matter? Because if we can recognize our stories, we have the power to change them, and I’m all about helping people connect with the most powerful versions of themselves.
Let me back up and share an example. I have a huge sweet tooth. HUGE. So while working the other week, I dipped my hand blindly into a bag of Chewy Nerds (don’t judge!), and this is what I pulled out:
I should mention: yellow is my LEAST favorite flavor. (I know, yellow is actually a color, not flavor, but in this case it tastes like… yellow!) I actively dislike it and will go to great lengths to avoid it.
So let’s look at just the data: blind grab yields ten yellows and one orange Nerd.
And then there are the stories. Because we humans are Meaning Making Machines, I don’t just take the data at face value. Nope. My brain starts riffing, and here are some stories I might tell myself based on this data:
- I have the WORST luck.
- This is so typical – I always get SCREWED.
- Why do I always have to try things twice to get what I want?
- Whoever decided to make yellow a flavor is sadistic.
- This is an omen. It’s going to be a terrible day.
Ridiculous, right? None of these are factual, and – more importantly – none of them help me, unless my goal is to get angry, feel like a victim, or conscript myself to a crappy day.
If I’m going to spin a story using this data (and let’s be real – as a Meaning Making Machine, you know I will!), it would be just as easy for me to say:
- What are the odds?! I must have a magic touch to pull an almost perfect handful!
- By knocking these out, I’ll have more of my favorites to look forward to!
- Yellow is probably someone’s favorite color – I’ll just set these aside for friends and try again.
Again, these are all stories, but at least these stories aren’t leaving me sitting in a cloud of doom. And if I can shift my entire mood based on a simple story I’m telling myself about a HANDFUL OF CANDY, imagine how much power there is in doing this with bigger topics – like the promotion we didn’t get, or the co-worker who drives us bananas, or our spouse who is always late. How often do we take the facts and create a story that puts us in the role of the victim?
And if you’ve ever read a novel, then you know: victims are rarely interesting. In fact, they’re often frustrating. So why on Earth would you cast yourself in that role when you’re the one holding the pen?
My challenge to you: Think back over your day (unless you’ve only been awake 10 minutes!) and identify one story you created that diminished your power. Got it? Now what’s another way you could’ve told it to avoid that trap?
If you want to continue to build this muscle, commit to doing this daily. Then shift from doing it daily to trying to notice your stories in REAL-TIME as you’re actually fabricating them. Like anything else, once you start paying attention, you’ll notice just how frequently you do it – and how much you’re unconsciously draining fuel from your own tank.
As for me and my Chewy Nerds? I ate them. And the next handful I pulled – was loaded with my favorite flavors. 🙂