The Stories You Tell Shape the Life You Live
I can tell the type of leader you are by the stories you tell about yourself. I’m not a therapist nor a psychologist. But I’ve made it my business to invest in others through mentorship. And while I’m usually the guy in the front of the room or at the head of the table talking, I’m perfectly content to ask questions and listen when it comes to developing the people around me.
I’ve learned that people usually tell stories that fall into three categories: security, significance, or success. I promise you that if you’ll start paying attention to which category of story the person you’re talking to is sharing, you’ll discover just how powerful those stories are in shaping and reinforcing whatever life that individual is leading.
When people want to create change, they must first [identify the stories they tell]( http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/08/life-stories-narrative-psychology-redemption-mental-health/400796/) that created their current state. If every story you tell me is about how you don’t measure up, then you’re likely living an unsatisfied life. If every story you tell me is about how you achieve great things, then you’re likely living a life that is consumed with your desires. But if you tell me stories about how you are changing the life of others, then I know you’re living a life of significance, passion, and meaning.
It’s amazing what you can learn about someone by simply listening to them.
I don’t mean half way listen to them. I don’t mean think about the agenda of your next meeting while you listen to someone. I mean truly engage and focus on what they are saying. People will tell you so much about their intentions, purpose, and goals through what they say. This is why lawyers practice asking good questions, doctors ask for feedback before they diagnose, and psychologists probe you for more information. All of these are disciplines every leader should adopt.
If people are key to creating change, then it only makes sense unlock their potential by helping them recognize and maybe even change the stories they tell about themselves. It is a powerful shift in frame of reference that can have a significant impact in a very short period. Whether you’re a businessman, coach, pastor, educator, or some other type of leader, you know the most powerful vehicle for change is to change the narrative of the people around you.
· The DNA of how you perceive yourself and the world around you.
· Hints or suggestions of your biggest fears.
· Insight into opportunities to change your current narrative.
What makes changing your story difficult is it’s hard to do this without the help of a trusted advisor or mentor.
The brain is powerful at blocking your ability to see yourself objectively. It only sees what you allow it to see. If you expect disappointment, you’ll find disappointment everywhere. If you want control, you’ll see opportunities to excerpt your authority everywhere. And if you want certainty, you’ll only see things that support your point of view. This is why it’s critical to find someone you can trust who will help you understand how the stories you tell today will shape the life you live tomorrow.
If you don’t have this person in mind yet, let me offer you some suggestions on how to begin to listen to your stories:
· Listen to a recording of yourself talking about your day.
· Read out loud your last journal entry.
· Ask a friend to recount one or two stories you tell again and again.
· Evaluate the books you read, the movies you watch, and the music you listen to that you feel connected to the most.
· Review a list of what you achieved—however big or small—in the last 30 days and what you think you will achieve in the next 30 days.
When you evaluate your effort, pay attention to:
· Key phrases you repeat again and again
· If the outcomes are positive or negative
· The role you play in good or bad things happening
· How confident you are as you approach your work and interact with others
· How you believe others perceive you
The fingerprints of your divine design are hidden within the stories you tell about yourself.
Each of these elements will help you see how the stories you tell and the way you talk about yourself impacts your perception of yourself, the decisions you make, and the milestones you achieve. It’s a powerful exercise that will lead you through a self-discovery process that should allow you to discern if you know and have activated your divine design. By telling new stories, you will achieve and attract all the security, significance, and success you’ve ever wanted.
If you do this with an open mind and heart, you will discover patterns. Those patterns are clues you can use to transform your thinking, reposition your stories, and discover a new sense of satisfaction and progress that you haven’t felt before—or at least for a long time. Never underestimate the power of stories to shape your reality and set you up for the life of your dreams.
CHALLENGE: Take one common story you tell about yourself. Decide to tell it another way. See how it changes your perspective, confidence, and conviction about what you believe about yourself, others, and the world around you. Determine which stories you need to change to achieve the breakthrough you know you need.