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Monday
May262014

Time to Change Your Story?

Many of you reading this post will probably assume that I am talking about revising your "brand" and its associated materials ("elevator speech," resume, linkedIn profile, etc.). But in fact I'm talking about a different story - the one you tell yourself about who you are and the limitations you have. That's THE most important story. Jacob Glass, a source of great inspiration for me, recently said the following:

The joy in my life has very little to do with what is actually going on in my life and a lot to do with what I tell myself about what's going on.

This will strike most people as somewhere between dead wrong and ridiculous. And, for people strongly oriented to the material (as opposed to the inner psychological or spiritual ) world, that statement would indeed fall somewhere between those poles. But I cannot urge you, my reader, strongly enough to begin (or continue) to practice making that statement true, because once it feels true to you, you have immensely greater control over the way you experience your life. Not to mention an increased likelihood that what is actually going on in your life will objectively improve.

Let me give some simple illustrations:

Earlier this year I worked with an executive who came to me convinced that it was only a matter of time before his new boss would sack him.    My client told me "I'm just not very emotionally intelligent." After considerable discussion ( during which it came to light that he had handled some delicate interpersonal situations extremely well) and some reading he came to the realization that he probably DIDN'T have a deficit in this area. In fact he was under skilled POLITICALLY, an issue fairly easily addressed with coaching. His day-to-day anxiety, which had been eating him up, dropped substantially, and what's more his boss began consulting him on meatier issues than had previously been the case.

The disadvantage of aging once one has reached forty ( or even thirty! ) is an amazingly common story I hear over and over. Almost everybody wishes they were younger than they were. What a waste!

A woman in her late 50s came to me at the end of last year depressed that her consulting business was flagging, and despairing of ever being able to switch careers at this "late" stage in her life. By exploring her interests and taking inventory of her skills I was able to point her to a path that led to a good paying job in a related but quite distinct field four months later.

In both of these cases, and many others, I was able to provide the encouragement, reassurance, and support that allowed them to embark on a transition of their internal, as well as external, story. That encouragement, reassurance, and support is practically indispensable for most people....it is oh so easy to slip back into the old story.

One of the trickiest aspects of the transition is how strongly to "push" the new narrative to yourself. One the one hand, there are those who would suggest that you should affirm in the present the transition that you would like to see happen in the future. So, for example, the guy who thought he was emotionally unintelligent would be encouraged to affirm something along the lines of "I am anxiety free, and people naturally turn to me for guidance". It is likely that this kind of affirmation would be rejected out of hand by his logical mind.

On the other hand, I think that affirming something about the transition that you can in fact genuinely believe (e.g. "I am working hard at altering my story") is the way to go. As you affirm, the distortion in your perception that magnifies things you wish to be true, and be blind to things you don't (confirmation bias), kicks in, so you begin to see the "actual" world differently (and more favorably). And reciting a believable affirmation will certainly make you feel better than would the story of "I'm screwed."  and therefore improve the odds of making valuable connections, coming up with creative ideas, building upon suggestions, and generally being more aware and engaged in life. How can this NOT help move you towards your goals?

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