This week’s Q&A:
“I feel like nothing in my life is changing. I just keep thinking about all the things that’ve gone wrong, and nothing seems to get any better. What can I do to break this cycle?”
If you’re asking yourself this question, that means you’re really ready to move forward, which is great news. You’ve been telling yourself your “story”—why your life is the way it is—all your life. It’s what you’ve come to believe from your experiences, assumptions, observations, and how you chose to interpret them.
You’re going to have a story of your life. Unlike in childhood, though, you can now consciously choose it.
Stories in themselves are not bad things. You want to have one that shapes your life.
The questions you have to consider are:
- Are you living according to a negative story or a positive story?
- Are you constantly looking backward and living in the past?
- Is the story you’ve chosen helping you live your best life or keeping you confined in a prison of your own making?
For example, the story I told myself growing up is that I had 11 brothers and sisters, and the older ones were smarter, stronger, and more courageous than the younger ones (I was one of the younger). I told myself that my father wasn’t very nice to us, and he treated us like we worked for him. In fact, I only ever had two real conversations with him in my life. He was so controlling, I was scared of everything. If I had been better loved and better nurtured by my family, I could’ve had a very different life.
That guy (my old self) sounds pretty negative, doesn’t he? Who wants to be around that guy? He feels sorry for himself, and he’s a victim of his life.
But I learned to change my story to something much more positive, and the whole world opened up for me. Now, I had 11 brothers and sisters who taught me amazing things about life and had many different skills and personalities. My parents loved me very much, and they were great providers. They brought people from all around the world into our home, and I learned enough from that experience to be willing to move to Russia and China.
Which story is true? They both are. It’s just the perspective that’s different. You can choose to see how your life played out.
Here are five ways to start changing a negative story:
1. Make a list of good things that have happened to you.
It can include times you made other people feel good, times you did well in school or sports, times you conquered something you thought too difficult, or anything you want. The list begins to bring to the front of your mind positive things you may have been discounting for years.
2. Keep a praise file.
When you’re making the transition from a negative story to positive, you’ll need regular support. Other people’s words are powerful tools. Anything that thanks you, acknowledges you, or praises you works well. When you feel stuck, open the file and get a boost of support.
3. Question your past assumptions.
Is what you thought happened really what happened? How many times have you misunderstood someone’s comments or intentions? How often did you get only part of the story and draw conclusions from it not knowing your conclusions were wrong? It’s easy to get fixed on your own perspective and forget it’s not the only one.
4. Consider the source of the negativity.
It may have been a parent, a sibling, or a teacher. The person may have been under a lot of pressure, in a bad mood, going through something traumatic, or misplacing their negativity onto you. Some questions to ask yourself are: What was that person really saying? Was that about me or was it really about them? Did that person actually know what he or she was talking about?
5. Seek assistance from others.
This may be a psychologist or psychiatrist, a life coach, a priest, or other qualified person. Like the writing process in point number 1 above, the speaking process is great for making sense of what you actually think. It forces you to get out of your mind and face the facts of your situation rather than simply pushing unexamined negative feelings around in your mind.
Changing your story doesn’t happen overnight, but if you keep working toward it, you’ll be able to shift it more quickly than you ever imagined possible.
Tell me in the comments what kinds of stories you’re now aware you’ve been telling yourself.