“Live the story you want to tell”.
I recently heard this Becky Higgins say this on the Cultivate a Good Life podcast (which I highly recommend) and I LOVE this quote!
Most of us don’t live intentionally. Instead, we live in default mode and we don’t pay that much attention to our thoughts because they’re so automatic.
THINKING ABOUT THINKING
Did you know that the average person has 60,000 thoughts per day?
Typically, around 80% of these thoughts are negative and 95% of them are the same thoughts the person had the day before.
Our brains like to be efficient and do what they’re good at. Your brain is really good at thinking thoughts it has already thought.
When you think a certain thought over and over again, a neural pathway forms in your brain. Changing your neural pathways, particularly as an adult, is not an easy thing to do.
If you want to change thoughts and beliefs you’ve held for many years, it will take time, effort, and paying attention to your thoughts.
IDENTIFY YOUR CURRENT STORY
Ready to live the story you actually want to tell?
The first step is to identify your current thoughts. Pay attention to your brain. Notice where it goes when it wanders. Do you often find yourself worrying, complaining, or being negative?
Do you notice that you have a lot of the same thoughts each day? How do these thoughts make you feel? How do you act in response to these thoughts? What are the results of your actions?
Remember Brooke Castillo’s self coaching model:
Thoughts > Feelings > Actions > Results
This model states that the circumstances in our lives are neutral. Circumstances are things we have no control over, like the weather, the COVID-19 virus, things that happened in the past, or how other people behave.
We don’t control the circumstances, but we can control the thoughts we have about them. What story are you currently telling about your circumstances?
Even the most challenging circumstances can be framed in a way that serves you. What have you learned from struggles in your life? How have you grown? How can you use your experiences to help other people?
Are you painting yourself as a victim in the story of your life? Or as a survivor?
The choice is yours.
CREATE A NEW STORY
Many of us are stuck in the victim mentality and we don’t want to take responsibility for our lives. It’s easy to blame genetics, a difficult childhood, the economy, the job market, your boss, or another person for all of your problems and your negative emotions.
But you have the power to tell yourself whatever story you want.
Why tell yourself a story that makes you feel powerless, frustrated, and stuck?
Wouldn’t you prefer to tell a story you actually want to live?
A story that makes you feel empowered, inspired, or at peace?
This does not mean that you lie to yourself or that you live in denial. It simply means that you frame your story in a way that serves you (and in a way that you can genuinely believe it to be true).
I used to hate my student loan debt, even after I paid it off. I saw it as something that held me back and caused me to be “behind” in terms of saving for retirement and other financial goals.
Now, I see it differently. I see it as the kick in the butt I needed. Hitting rock bottom with six figure student loan debt motivated me to learn everything I could about personal finance. It led me to Dave Ramsey and shifted my perspective.
I now have a completely different relationship with money. I no longer care about doing things that seem “normal” or accumulating a lot of stuff. I know that being “normal” means being broke and in debt, and that’s not what I want.
Without my student loan debt, maybe I never would’ve had this mindset shift. Perhaps I would’ve spent my entire life acquiring lots of meaningless stuff and racking up debt. I probably never would’ve started this blog (which began as a personal finance blog).
Side note: I am not in any way implying that everyone needs to take on debt in order to learn that debt is bad. This is simply the way my journey looked. Yours may look completely different and that’s awesome.
HOW TO DO THIS
If you want to shift your perspective, remember that this will be challenging. When you’re questioning thoughts and beliefs you’ve had for a long time, there will be resistance.
Your brain doesn’t want to think new thoughts. It wants to think the same thoughts it’s always thought…simply because it’s wired to be efficient.
Once you understand this, there’s no reason to beat yourself up for being too negative, worrying too much, or any other bad habit you’d like to change.
Have compassion for yourself and understand that changing your thoughts will take time. That’s okay.
As you work on changing the story you’re currently telling, consider ask yourself the following questions:
- How has my past shaped who I am today? What has it made possible?
- How did the challenges make me stronger, wiser, or more resilient?
- How do I want to feel? What thoughts make me feel that emotion?
- How can I frame this experience in a way that serves me?
- How will this situation help me to learn and grow?
Remember this: if you’re constantly thinking about how something wasn’t supposed to happen or about how unfair something was, this does not serve you.
Byron Katie says “When I argue with reality, I lose, but only 100% of the time.”
It was always supposed to happen that way.
How do I know?
Because it did.
Interested in digging into this concept further? Check out these amazing podcasts that explore the stories we tell.
*Note: I am not in any way affiliated with any of the podcasts below and I do not receive compensation for promoting them.
On the Things Above podcast, James Bryan Smith examines the stories we tell ourselves about God, faith, and ourselves. He dismantles harmful false narratives and helps us to understand truths that are good and beautiful.
Listen to: Finality of the Cross
CULTIVATE A GOOD LIFE
The name of the podcast comes from Becky Higgins’ tagline “Cultivate a Good Life and Record It”. The Beckys discuss documenting, intentionality, and living the story we want to tell.
Listen to: Why Documenting Matters
LIFE COACH SCHOOL
Brooke Castillo, founder of The Life Coach School, offers practical intentional living tips that actually work. Brooke teaches her listeners how to change their lives by being intentional about the stories they are telling themselves.
Consider this: every result you currently have in your life began as a sentence in your mind.
Listen to: How to Change Your Past