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Mindset / Personal Growth

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

“The most important story you will ever tell about yourself is the story you tell to yourself.”

Dr. Jim Loehr

Did you love stories when you were a kid? Nighttime stories that sent you off to dreamland with wonders dancing through your head, colorful images of fairytale places in far off lands with unicorns, or dragons, space aliens, or superheroes. Maybe you were flying or had spaghetti arms. Those amazing little brain seeds would have us wrapped up in the make-believe world before our heads even hit the pillow.

That was such a glorious time in life! To believe in any- and everything and be able to imagine ourselves in the main character’s role flying high through the sky, sneaking cautiously through the woods, defeating the bully in the schoolyard, or being a princess ballerina police kitten.

We enjoyed those stories and wished we could be those characters, to live the experiences they were living. Can you remember how it felt to step for a magical minute into the book and be part of that alternate world?

INCREDIBLE.

Kids are super cool like that. A child’s belief in their ability to transform is limitless.

Wanna know why that is? It’s because they haven’t yet created their own stories about what the world is like yet.

To them, the world is just a vast, endless sea of cool ideas that have no boundaries. “Reality” isn’t a concept they get yet. And the moment they do, it’s because story has set in, and that’s a sad moment.

Humans are meaning-makers and when we cross a certain age threshold we also hit a cognitive milestone and begin to make meaning of the things we have seen, experienced, and lived. Now, no kid should ever be alone in their heads trying to make decisions about how the world is and what the world is like. I mean, their kids. But that’s what happens… because human.

You did this, too. So did I. So do your kids, and so did your spouse. We all made determinations about what the world is like and formed world views when we were grossly under-qualified to do so. And those things stay with us. Those judgements, assessments, are the very roots of the stories that grow through our lives. The world views are like roots of mighty oak tree, deep and wide.

I love trees. I love my blue jays and squirrels that play in one of my trees out back. SO it pains me to use trees for this example when I teach and coach. But those roots can be toxic. And they support and grow a tree of story that can be toxic as well. If the root world views are toxics, so is the trunk, the main branches, the smaller branches, twigs and leaves.

MAN I love trees and I need a different analogy but it’s too easy to see how your world views support stories that branch out to canopy everything in life. Let me explain a bit more…

World views are what you believe about 22 (there’s actually a couple more) different ideas in the world. It’s based on the world of Jer Clifton and comes out of the most recent and possibly most powerful body of evidence that Positive Psychology has discovered about humans yet.

Your world views shape everything. And when they don’t serve you (because they probably formed when you weren’t old enough to know that cookies for all three meals isn’t really a good idea) they run amok in your internal narrative. They shape your stories.

If world views are the roots of a tree, the story you tell yourself about yourself is the trunk. It’s the big main hub, strong, sturdy, formidable, and unmoving. It’s what supports the branches. And if the trunk is the main story, the branches are all part of that, they grew from it, and the branches are variations – ways that story has grown and reached into new areas of your life.

And as each story branches out in its own slightly different variation into different realms of your life, it grows even more tiny branches, or twigs. And leaves.

And soon, that story tree has a big full canopy casting (throwing) shade over you. It’s inescapable. This is how our brains use narrative.

You might be wondering why the hell your brain would choose to take negative stories and torture you with it. Why would our brains allow that? Well, it’s easy, really. We often don’t know that our world views are harmful, and we don’t know that we’re even telling ourselves stories. And your brain, if you’re alive and reading this today, has done its job well because you are alive. So maintaining status quo by staying right where you are in every way, even if that means smoking a pack of cigarettes a day and going to bed with 5 Snickers bars, is exactly what it will continue to have you do.

While our brains are smart, their also kind of dumb.

It feels like a weird thing to say, that our brains are dumb. But they truly are. And by they, I mean our 3 brains, not as in us/our plural.

The antidote to dumb brains that don’t really get how helpful change can be? The magic potion that can help turn those toxic world view roots into positive, life-giving world views and stories?

Narrative. And science.

Getting all three of your brains on the same page to shift toxic word views can be like convincing three stubborn toddlers who each have drastically different personalities, ideas about how things should go, and the kinds of things they want to do, to all work together to build a car. Moms out there, are you chuckling? You KNOW this is a near-impossible feat.

Well, if we’re talking three brains and not toddlers, there’s science for that! It’s like a stealth and covert mission where you sneak up on each of the brains and convince them in their own way that shifting those views and rewriting those stories is a good thing to do. And then they work together and change is possible at identity level. You know, lasting permanent change. The kind that seems unattainable at times.

Perhaps you have some world views that are giving strength, stability, and life to old stories that aren’t serving you, are keeping you from achieving the dreams and goals that are on your heart, and are holding you back one or more realms of your life… Maybe it’s time to shift those world views, rewrite that old story, and start getting more out of life on YOUR TERMS.

You were made for more.

So the next time a child tells you their amazing, out-of-this-world plan to drive a flying car to the moon with their pet alligator in the passenger seat to teach her best alien friend how to tap dance, tell them how cool that sounds. Keep reality to yourself, and consider taking their lead in believing in what seems impossible.

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