How to Think Better: power of story

You hit the snooze a few times, try on four outfits before settling on what to wear, and get stuck in traffic on your way to work.

Those are the facts.

But what’s the story you tell?

Is it:

Once upon a time I had a horrible, awful, terrible start to my day. I can never get up on time. I hate my wardrobe. My commute is awful.

Or is it more like:

Wow, this morning was a doozy! I got a little extra shut-eye and it felt so good not jumping right out of bed when the alarm went off. I have so many clothes it’s a smorgasbord of choices every morning. And I saw a beautiful field of flowers that I only noticed because the traffic came to a standstill on my way to the office.

Poor me gloom and doom versus—what would you call the other?

Positive? Pollyanna? Downright delusional?

Perhaps both are extremes.

But these two versions point to the power of story—and the fact that you get to choose the story you tell dozens of times throughout the day.

An old story

I have a friend who tells an old story. About a bad divorce and a missed job opportunity. The story is fresh, but the actual divorce and career setback are over a decade old.

Which points to the power of story—and the fact that you can let go of old ones. You can intentionally choose the stories you want to keep alive.

The same story

I have a client who tells the same story over and over. Her story could be called “But Why Didn’t I Do More?”

  • She baked six dozen cookies for the school bake sale. But why didn’t she also volunteer to chaperone the school outing?
  • She pitched her services to a potential new client. But why didn’t she know the answer to that last question out of twenty?
  • She helped her elderly mother clear out the attic. But why didn’t she clean the garage too?

Which points to the power of story—and the fact that your narrative either empowers or disempowers you. The stories you tell are rarely neutral. They reflect and affect how you show up in the world.

What stories are you telling? Do they make you feel good? Grateful? Powerful? What stories do you need to rescript or let go of altogether?