We all tell ourselves stories. Yes, even you. We negotiate with ourselves every day, and these stories are part of that negotiation process. Usually these stories don’t serve you.
Often, they play just under your consciousness, like bad b-roll, undermining your sense of self and disempowering you. In fact, let me bold and pose the theory that the stories you’re telling yourself just may be the biggest obstacle holding you back from being the biggest and best version of yourself and from negotiating the life you want and deserve. What if you could flip those stories to make them your greatest strength and opportunities? That’s what I’d like to talk about today.
Do you ever find yourself saying (or thinking) “I’d be further along in my life but …”? Whatever comes after that ‘but’ is one of your stories. They become the excuses we use to justify our inaction – our playing small. And so, it’s important to identify it. For some people, it’s easier for them to come at it another way and to identify their obstacles first. What are the obstacles that you believe are holding you back? Chances are, they’re stories too. What do I mean by that? Let me use myself as an example. My stories have been that I’ve been held back or slowed down or disadvantaged by: my low-income background; my dad’s death; my executive assistant’s embezzlement of funds from my law practice. You get the idea. Take a moment and identify your stories now. Your biggest breakthroughs lie on the other side of those stories.
Once you’ve done that, I invite you to recognize that your story is just your perception, your thoughts, and the meaning that you give to those thoughts. The beauty of this epiphany is that your thoughts are one thing you can control. There are many things in this world that we cannot control, but we can control the meaning we choose to give things. And make no mistake, it is a choice. To think otherwise, is just another story we tell ourselves. You can train yourself (i.e. negotiate with yourself) to flip those thoughts and stories to more empowering narratives that will help drive you toward your vision and dreams rather than holding you back from them. Sound good? Give it a whirl. Decide that today is the day you take control over your thoughts to use them to your advantage to propel you forward.
It’s important to clear out the cobwebs of these stories from cluttering your mind. Negative stories create fear. Fear left will fester. It will lead to anxiety, pain, illness, uncertainty, paralysis in decision-making and action. Find it. Challenge it. Let go of it. Toss it out. How do you do that? Simple. Take your story, turn it, and hold it up to the light to examine it from a new angle. Challenge the truth of the beliefs underlying your narrative. Explore more empowering ways to see and tell the story. Where’s the silver lining? What’s the benefit you got from the experience? What positive attributes did you gain, or skill you learned, or capacity you developed?
Let me share a concrete example from my personal experience. When I did this exercise myself, I explored my story around money. I recognized that I often talk about how I ‘came from nothing’ – referring to our low rental apartment and money scarcity. I realized that continuously tapping into that story kept me smaller, stopped me from stepping into the fullness of my potential success. It hit me that there’s a fear of success that holds me back when I hit a certain level of achievement. And so I made a conscious decision to flip the underlying story so I could banish the limiting hold and turn it into a source of potential empowerment. Because I love to write, this is what I did with it:
I came from nothing. I say that often, yet as I write it I see the lie in it. The story that’s held me back. I came from everything. We didn’t have a lot of money. Sure, there was fighting over money all the time it seemed. But we always had enough.
And mostly, we had love … and connection … and joy.
We lived. We loved. We shared.
And it was enough. It was always enough.
Any yet … and yet …
At some level I developed the belief that I needed more. Always more.
And I was driven. Driven to succeed. To have more.
More money, more space than that little apartment, but mostly more respect.
Maybe it was because I felt my Dad’s disappointment. That he’d never lived to his full potential. Never taken chances.
So I took them for him.
And I have more now than I could ever have imagined.
Any yet it’s never enough.
Why? What makes me always strive for more? Was it imprinted when my new middle school friends weren’t allowed to play at my house? The look on my dad’s face – that fear that maybe we’d be held back by what he could offer. Was it a need to prove them wrong? “See – we are worth it! We’re enough! We’re more than enough, damn you! Go screw you and your judgment.”
So maybe it’s time to let that go. That scarcity gave me my to drive to succeed, to overcome obstacles, to reach higher. That scarcity taught me compassion, empathy, and generosity. That scarcity was a gift. It made me who I am. And now, I can let go of the baggage around it. I can open myself up to receiving. I can shoot for the moon, without guilt. I can appreciate the good that money can do and I can do with money. It’s okay to make money without needing to explain or prove anything to anyone.
You don’t have to get flowery or artsy. You can jot down your new empowering story and thoughts in point form if you’d like. Heck, you don’t even have to write it down at all so long as you do it. Just take your old dis-empowering story and flip it. It’s that simple.
You can also do this with your thoughts generally. Examine the negative thoughts you have each day. Flip them. Here are some examples of thought-flips to get you started:
I never get a lucky break
I have too much to do
[/one_third_first][two_third_last]Why not me? I deserve it!
I make my own luck and grab opportunities that arise
I control my workload and I have all the time in the world
According to the Cleveland Clinic, the average person has up to 60,000 thoughts/day. Of those thoughts, 95% repeat each day. Sadly, on average, 80% of those repeated thoughts are negative. Think of the destructive power of that negative repetition. Your thoughts are the gateway between where you are and where you want to go. Change your thoughts, change your life. Here’s to you and the new story of your life!