Believe it or not, the stories or narratives you tell yourself changes what you see or think possible in life.
When we enter an experience with a story about how we think life is, that determines how we focus our attention and becomes what we see,
even when there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary.
I was reminded of this recently by one of my coaching clients (I’m sharing this with his full permission).
He compared his present marital problems and stress to an old parable he recalled. A group of blind men touch an elephant for the very first time to learn what it’s like. Each one of them feels a different part of the elephant, but only that one part, such as the leg, trunk or tusk. Then the men eagerly compare notes and quickly learn that they are in complete disagreement about what an elephant looks like – and of course, lots of tension and drama ensued.
Something similar happens through our wide-ranging, different past experiences. Some of us have been deeply heartbroken. Some of us have lost our parents, siblings or children to accidents and illnesses. Some of us have dealt with infidelity. Some of us have been fired from jobs we relied upon. Some of us have been ignored or discriminated against. And, when we enter a new experience that arouses prominent memories from our own painful stories from the past, it shifts our perspective in the present – and it narrows it.
When a negative past experience narrows our present perspective, it’s mostly a defence mechanism – an attempt to create ‘safety’ from ‘threat’.
Every day of our lives we are presented with some level of uncertainty and unpredictability, and our innate human defence mechanisms don’t like this at all.
And so our mind will try to compensate by filling in the gaps of information by clinging to the stories we already feel comfortable or are familiar with. The result is we end up subconsciously trying to make better sense of everything in the present by using old stories and past experiences as a filler.
While this approach can work at times, other times our old stories and past experiences are completely irrelevant to the present moment, so they end up hurting us and those we love far more than they help. They limit our potential and the unlimited possibilities that may otherwise be available to us.
Thus, my invitation and challenge to you is this:
Whenever you feel tension, anxiety or drama building up inside you, ask yourself…
- What is the story I’m telling myself right now?
- Can I be absolutely certain this story is true?
- How do I feel and behave when I tell myself this story?
- What else would I see and experience if I removed this story from my mind?
Do your best to consciously detach yourself from the story you’re telling yourself. Go deeper into the reality of the present moment. Don’t just look at the immediate facts. Investigate. Go deeper. Be curious. Observe without absorbing.
It’s about thinking better, so you can ultimately live better too.
The key is to understand that no matter what happened, you can choose your response in this moment, which dictates pretty much everything that happens next.
Truly, the greatest weapon we have against anxiety, negativity and stress is our ability to choose one present thought over another – to train our mind to make the best of what we’ve got in front of us, without the stories!
YES, you CAN change the way you think! And once you do, you can master a new way to be and live in the world.
And that’s why I’ve created the You Are Not Your Brain online masterclass program with Dr Jeffrey M Schwartz. Dr Schwartz is the leading neuroscientist in the world on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and neuroplasticity – if anyone knows how to change bad habits and end unhealthy thinking to ultimately take charge of your life, it’s him! And me, of course! Together, we make the ultimate artillery for your tool kit to reconstruct your thinking to create a fuller, happier, healthier and empowered life.
Check it out here.
Enlivened Teams, Resilient Workplaces
Whether it is a critical workplace event or project, dealing with the constant and rapid pace of change, or simply responding to the day-to-day challenging situations that we all encounter, personal resilience is the determining factor in who fails and who succeeds.
Build a resilient workplace by training managers in how to cultivate their own and others’ resilience so they know that when the going gets tough, they can lead with true grit.
If you are interested in finding out more, click here.
You Are Not Your Brain
Want to see how you stack on the Resilience Scale? Sign up and take my complimentary self assessment here.