The stories you tell make up the lens through which you see the world. The stories create your reality. Take something as simple as traffic. If the story you tell is that you resent the traffic you have to fight your way through during rush hour every day, and that it is intolerable and maddening, then you’re almost guaranteed to have steam coming out your ears by the time you get where you’re going.
On the other hand, if you just accept that the traffic is a part of your day and commit to using the time in positive ways – maybe pondering a solution to a sticky problem, or listening to self-development CDs – your experience will be completely different. It’s unlikely you’ll ever think, “Wheeee! Traffic jams are fun,” but at least you can get where you’re going without your stress-induced cortisol levels rocketing through the roof. You might even learn to enjoy the alone time.
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The external reality of those two situations is identical. The difference rests entirely with the story you tell. As you look at 2010, ask yourself which stories are helping you create a career and a life you love. What ways of seeing things support your success and your happiness? How about the flip side? What stories are you telling that are dragging you down? What ways of seeing things are painting the world in limiting colors?
Here are some questions to help shine a light on what some of those stories might be:
Asking why will help tease out the story behind what you’re feeling. You may find that you feel confident when you’re doing something you feel adept at. You’re in the comfort zone of expertise. On the other hand, you might feel insecure when you are trying to do something new. Let’s say that insecurity spins into a story that you’re bound to fail.
One way to retell the story is to reframe how you see it. Rather than trying something new and saying, “I’m no good at this,” you might look at it as a step on the way to confidence. If you think back to the early days of doing the things at which you now feel confident, odds are good that you weren’t always as smooth with them as you are now. At some point there had to be a learning process. So rather than, “I tried something new and really sucked at it,” your new story might be, “I just took a step towards mastery” (or at least competence).
Spend some time exploring the stories you tell and the impact they have on your experience of life. Pick two to focus on in the coming year, one limiting story and one empowering story. For the limiting story, ask, “How can I shift this? What different story could I tell?” For the empowering story, ask, “How can I bring this more consciously and consistently into the way I view things?”
Resist the urge to feel like you need to retell your stories over night. Think of it as a sculpting process. Bit by bit, over time, the old stories will fade and the new stories will appear.
After years as a professional malcontent, Curt Rosengren discovered the power of passion. As a speaker, author, and coach, Rosengren helps people create careers that energize and inspire them. His book, 101 Ways to Get Wild About Work, and his E-book, The Occupational Adventure Guide, offer people tools for turning dreams into reality. Rosengren's blog, The M.A.P. Maker, explores how to craft a life of meaning, abundance, and passion.