The stories we tell

When I was young, one of the best parts of the day was breakfast. Mom always made sure we were fed well before leaving for school. My favorite was oatmeal with butter, brown sugar and milk.

Except when she added raisins while it was cooking. Looking at those brown puffy … things … in my food, I could not bring myself to eat one.

My big brother told me they were cooked roaches; and then, as brothers do, laughed at my horror. The story he told was believable because that’s how they looked and he was my big brother and knew everything, but it was nowhere based in reality. To this day I never add dried fruit when I cook cereal.

We do this all the time. We tell ourselves stories to explain what we see, rationalize our feelings or justify our actions. Those stories sink into our consciousness and somehow morph into “fact.” In my mind, those brown puffy raisins were nasty bugs. The things you tell yourself become your reality.

Isn’t it time to question the story?

I’ve heard it said that negative thoughts get 17 times the attention that positive thoughts do. When you tell yourself a story that disempowers, it’s more likely to become the “truth” than a story that empowers.

Why? Because we give it more energy – 17 times more energy.

We hold the thought longer in our minds. We chew on it. We digest it with our meals. We sleep on it and wake up with that negative thought in our head every morning. It becomes our reality.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

The thoughts don’t just go away, but we do get to choose where we focus. We can choose to give energy to positive stories that empower us.

But first you have to notice what the story is.

When you make a mistake on an important project, is your story “You’re such a LOSER!” or is it “Wow, I sure learned a lot from this!”   When you miss your turn on the interstate, is the story “How could you miss that exit, you idiot!” or, is it laughter and “Well, I guess I get to find a different way home!”

Here’s a challenge for you: Pay attention to the stories you tell yourself. There’s no right or wrong here – simply notice.

I encourage my clients to keep a small notebook and jot down things they notice. Like the story they tell themselves about missing the off-ramp on the interstate, or the story about raisins in your oatmeal. Capturing thoughts increases attention and you begin to hear more of your stories.

Once you become aware, then you can decide whether the story you’re telling yourself actually works for you.

By paying attention to what you already tell yourself, and consciously choosing to reframe that story into something that empowers you, you will begin to shift your thinking.  When you change your stories, you change your actions; when you change your actions, you change your life.

What are your stories?  Please share below!


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