How to Think Better: history

Are you weighed down by your history? Do you have a narrative about your past that disempowers you?

We all have a story to tell—whether to others or just ourselves—about how we got to where we are today.

Here’s the thing: There are the facts of the story, such as leaving college before graduation, being laid off from a job, a business failing, or a marriage ending.

But there’s also the interpretation of the facts that accompany a personal narrative. These are sometimes the parts left unsaid to others, but played repeatedly like a loop in our own heads.

Things like:

  • I’m not smart enough, that’s why I never finished college.
  • I’m always so unlucky, that’s why I got laid off from my job.
  • I don’t have what it takes to be successful, that’s why my business failed.
  • I just can’t make a relationship work, that’s why my marriage ended.

Think about your own personal narrative: Is your interpretation of your life to date empowering or disempowering? Gentle or harsh? Optimistic about the future or constrained by the past?

Deconstruct your narrative

If you examine your narrative—really deconstruct the facts of what’s happened in your life along with your explanation for events and the meaning you assign—you may come to realize your interpretation always equates to a rather sad sack of a story.

In other words, you have a tendency to view the events of your life through a filter that shines a light on shortcomings, inadequacy, lack, frailty, and failure.

You look back and focus on missed opportunity, wrong choices, disadvantages, and bad luck.

The disempowered interpretation

This propensity for the disempowered interpretation is like a ball and chain you carry with you into every new day.

Your personal narrative becomes a type of self-sabotage because it creates a learned helplessness, a default view of lack and limitation.

Rather than acknowledging, accepting, and learning from a situation and allowing it to gently fade into the past, the past dominates the present and dictates the future.

There’s a stinginess to your interpretations, a penchant for painting yourself with the least kind, least generous, least optimistic brush.

Choose how you interpret your history

While the facts of your life are the facts, you have the ability to choose how you interpret them.

And the interpretations you choose have a tremendous impact on how you feel about yourself, the way you show up in the world, and what you believe is possible for your future.

What’s the story you tell about your past? Could retelling your story lighten your load?